BNIM is named the Kansas City chamber’s top small business

Steve McDowell, BNIM principal and director of design, shook hands with Jim Heeter, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, as BNIM won the Mr. K Award as the Small Business of the Year.
Steve McDowell, BNIM principal and director of design, shook hands with Jim Heeter, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, as BNIM won the Mr. K Award as the Small Business of the Year. The Kansas City Star

BNIM was founded 45 years ago with a mission to “make Kansas City a better place.”

Now a leader in innovative design with many of Kansas City’s most noteworthy projects among its accomplishments, BNIM was honored Wednesday with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s top award for a business.

BNIM is the chamber’s 2015 Small Business of the Year and received the Mr. K Award, named after the late Ewing Marion Kauffman, founder of Marion Laboratories and the original owner of the Kansas City Royals. The Mr. K Award is based on business growth or sustainability, exemplary employee relations and a commitment to community service.

Steve McDowell, principal of BNIM, thanked Kansas City for having the environment to start and grow a successful business.

“When the firm was founded, the idea was to help make Kansas City a better place. We do that both through our work and being active in the community,” McDowell said. “Most people think of architecture as something beautiful. But we try to touch all of your senses and inspire your mind, your intellect and connect people to nature.”

More than 1,000 companies were nominated for the top 10 awards, and 64 of the nominees went through the application process. A group of judges narrowed the list to 10, then BNIM was selected from the top 10 for the Mr. K Award. More than 550 people attended the chamber’s 29th annual small business award luncheon at the Kansas City Convention Center.

“During its 45-year history, BNIM has had a huge impact on the Kansas City … environment, as well as leading the way nationally and internationally in sustainable design,” said Jim Heeter, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

BNIM, which was founded in 1970, is a multidisciplinary design firm offering such services as architecture, landscape architecture, planning, urban design, interior design and graphic design.

Locally it has worked on many high-profile projects, including several Crown Center office buildings, the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, the renovation of the Folly Theater, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Bloch Building.

BNIM, at 1735 Baltimore Ave., offers its employees such perks as paid time off for volunteering, hybrid work vehicles and regular gatherings such as pot luck lunches and Fridays at 5, a happy hour office event.

It also holds an annual symposium, bringing in employees from its offices in Des Moines, Houston, San Diego, St. Louis and Washington to discuss ways to continue to improve the company, as well as for fellowship. It has 121 employees, including 95 in Kansas City.

The company encourages employees to “speak up, to put ideas forward,” and it has systems in place to bring their contributions together, McDowell said.

“We have a saying, ‘No one knows as much as everyone,’” he said. “We try to grow people, and a number of great firms have come out of BNIM. We’re very proud of that.”

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC.

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The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce also announced the winners of three new awards on Wednesday:

▪ Legacy of Kansas City: Curry Real Estate Services, a Gladstone-based, full-service real estate company that manages, leases and sells commercial and multifamily properties throughout the area. It was founded in 1924 and has about 100 employees.

▪ Diverse Small Business of the Year: Whitley Construction Co., Lee’s Summit, a union metal framing, drywall and ceilings company for commercial projects. It was founded in 2009 and has 55 employees.

▪ Entrepreneur: ClaimKit, Overland Park-based software developers. The company was founded in late 2011 and has five employees.