From a plumber apprentice to million dollar construction firm owner, David Burnley embodies the spirit of breakthrough

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 6, 2024 6:37 AM EDT

All breakthroughs – be it professional or personal – seem to be contingent on taking advantage of all openings ranging from building strong relationships to mentorships and acquiring new skills. David Burnley, Senior President and CEO of Devon Group, understood this better than most people. Beginning his career as a plumber apprentice in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, he has gone on to build a multimillion dollar construction conglomerate.

Burnley’s business success is easily attributed to his incessant passion for personal development. After his five-year plumber apprenticeship program, he continued his education by taking nuclear mechanical engineering and quality control courses. He consequently worked as a nuclear mechanical test engineer at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio for seven years. To sidestep stagnation, Burnley transitioned and became a general superintendent/project manager for one of the nation’s largest construction firms.

“The key to success for me is to stay focused. I stay in my zone, but I always look to see where the industry is going and I ask myself, how can I add more value to my customers,” Burnley said about how he has found success.

Despite several successful years, Burnley relocated to Michigan in pursuit of business opportunities. He founded Devon Contracting Inc. (DCI), a family-owned construction business in 1994. His mentoring relationship with the Walbridge Aldinger Company, one of the nation’s largest construction firms, laid the foundation for his second company. They partnered to create Devon Industrial Group (DIG) in 1998 with Devon Contracting as the controlling partner. The new company fulfilled both party’s desire to better serve customers and the increasing demand for services.

Burnley consolidated his companies under Devon Group where he serves as President and CEO. It is comprised of Devon Contracting, a general contractor and precast installer and Devon Industrial Group, a specialist in construction management and special projects. Burnley is also Senior Vice President and co-founder of Tri-Tec LLC, a 100% minority-owned engineering, project management and integration services company. Combined, the three companies provide services in construction management, general contracting, design-build, decommissioning services, supervision, process development, engineering design and production launch support for clients in the automotive industry.

Although Devon Industrial Group has earned success across a range of different sectors, its exceptional performance within the automotive industry stands out. The company’s reputation for excellence has earned it continuous business opportunities with respected companies such as Ford, Toyota, Honda, General Motors, FCA, and other OEM’s & Tier Suppliers. Some of its major projects include Chrysler Tech Headquarters, Ford Heritage 2000 Projects, Rachel Upjohn Hospital, and General Motors, among others.

Balancing innovative quality-driven solutions and the provision of cost-effective projects for customers, Devon Industrial Group generates more than $200 in annual revenue. An important part of the Detroit community, Burnley is paving the way for other minority-owned companies. He considers his greatest accomplishments to be reaching out to help other diverse businesses succeed.

“Our company was built on partnerships.  Not forgetting our roots, we make partnering a priority in the way we deliver services to customers, and we make time to mentor smaller businesses who strive to do the same,” Burnley said about how his business is helping the next generation of entrepreneurs.

From starting out as a plumber apprentice, Burnley has created generational wealth for his children. His daughter Stephanie serves as Co-CEO for Devon Group. She supports the company’s daily operations in three main departments; Operations, Get Work and Administration. Stephanie is currently learning all facets of the company in preparation for succeeding her father as its next CEO.