IUBDC Receives Award from the Women’s Business Development Center

(L to R: Mike Smyth, VP Operations,  Illinois American Water; Lori Flores Rolfson, VP Operations and Maintenance, Peoples Gas;  Michele Blaise, Sr VP, Technical Services, ComEd and WBDC Board of Directors Member;  Melvin Williams, President, Nicor Gas; Richard Mark, Chairman and President, Ameren Illinois; Sadzi Martha Oliva, Acting Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission;  Brian Sheahan, Chairman and CEO, Illinois Commerce Commission and Anne Prammagiore, President and CEO, ComEd)

On Thursday, September 7th, the Women’s Business Development Center awarded the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) with the 2017 Future Forward Award. The award recognized the IUBDC for innovative partnership and the work the Council is doing to advance the growth and utilization of diverse businesses in Illinois. IUBDC board members and other leaders from the Council’s member companies were on hand to accept the award including: Illinois American Water vice president of operations, Mike Smyth, Ameren Illinois chairman and president, Richard Mark, ComEd president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore, Nicor Gas president, Melvin D. Williams, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas vice president of operations and maintenance, Lori Flores Rolfson. There was also participation by Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Brien Sheahan and Commissioner Sadzi Oliva who joined the IUBDC leaders at the award reception. Click here to view a video.


Connecting Contractors with diverse advocacy organizations at Prime Partner Institute, June 7, 2017

The Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) assembled the leaders of 75 prime contractor companies for the first –ever Prime Partner Institute on June 7, 2017 at Nicor Gas in Naperville.  IUBDC representatives from Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas met with the participants to discuss ways to accelerate use of the Tier II contractors, increase diversity in state contracts, and promote balanced economic and community growth.  The event focused on four key topics:

  • Types of certified vendors
  • Identifying qualified Tier II contractors
  • Product and services needs
  • How IUBDC can help

Illinois State Senator of the 11th senate district, Martin Sandoval delivered an inspiring opening message to the prime contractors, sharing the economic benefits of developing a diverse supply chain and encouraging them to develop a plan to better utilize diverse subcontractors.  Afternoon work sessions centered on   developing long-term approaches for balancing contracts that are outsourced and performed in-house, and balancing work with a variety of suppliers.  A critical focus area for the utility members’ Supplier Diversity team was to help identify and connect with diverse suppliers through continued education and awareness events that provide technical assistance to the MBE, WBE and VBEs.

Post event evaluations indicated that the attending prime contractor representatives received valuable insights that will enable them to build a supplier diversity program within their own companies.  To see photos from this event, please visit the Council Photo Gallery.

Here are a few of their comments:



IUBDC Host Legislative Reception in Springfield

The Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) held its first Legislative Reception on April 26, 2017 in Springfield during the closing weeks of the 100th Session of the Illinois General Assembly.

Newly-elected and veteran legislators representing all areas of state, from Round Lake Beach and Addison, to Downers Grove and East St. Louis, attended the event. Several legislative leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to broadening and strengthening business diversity in Illinois were on hand for discussions with the more than 30 representatives of IUBDC-member utilities.

Attending legislators included: Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, Jr.; Senator Martin Sandoval, Co-Chair of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus ; Assistant Majority Leaders Senator Donne Trotter, and Senator Kimberly Lightford, who  also is the Joint Chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and Co-Chair of the Conference of Women Legislators (COWL); Senate Majority Whip Mattie Hunter also Chair of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee; and State Representatives William Davis (Harvey) and Robert Pritchard (DeKalb).

Representing IUBDC-member companies were utility presidents: Bruce Hauk, Illinois American Water; Richard Mark, Ameren Illinois; Charles Matthews, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas; and Melvin Williams, Nicor Gas, who is serving as the Council’s inaugural chairman of the Board. Fidel Marquez, senior vice president, Governmental & External Affairs and Marlow Colvin, vice president of Governmental Affairs  represented founding IUBDC member company ComEd on behalf of president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore.

Key discussion topics included IUBDC’s efforts to increase the participation of diverse businesses in utility supply chains, develop new diverse businesses, and enlist legislator support to advance supplier diversity in Illinois.

To see photos from this event, please visit the Council Photo Gallery.


More than 250 Participants Attend IUBDC Empowering Businesses for Success Workshop

On November 10, 2016, more than 250 attendees joined the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council’s (IUBDC) “Empowering Businesses for Success” workshop at the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, IL. The event featured speakers, moderated panels, multiple breakout sessions and open discussion among diverse supplier businesses and experts from various industries including, information technology, construction and legal. Among the attendees were ICC Commissioner Sherina Maye-Edwards, ICC Commissioner John Rosales, and ICC Staff Danisha Hall and Tomas Rodriguez.

In his opening remarks, Melvin Williams, Chairman of the IUBDC and president of Nicor Gas highlighted the importance of the IUBDC and why it’s imperative that Illinois utilities help to reshape business diversity. “We understand that doing business in a manner that reflects the communities we serve helps us achieve our business objectives while strengthening our communities and our local community.” said Williams “Our dedication to businesses and organizational diversity has never been stronger. It is not a program or an initiative- it is a key strategic business imperative and at the core our corporate values.”

With ComEd, Nicor, Ameren, Illinois American Water, Peoples Gas and the Northshore Company participating in the discussion panels, attendees had the opportunity to better understand procurement processes, needs and other important details related to what it takes to work with the participating Utilities. Topics included safety, insurance requirements, operator qualifications, risk management, cyber security and more.

The day concluded with a networking event where the attendees had an opportunity to mingle with various utility representatives, advocacy leaders, panel participants and other diverse supplier company leaders.

To see photos from this event, please visit the Council Photo Gallery.


Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce Annual Convention, August 24, 2016


Illinois Utilities take part in a Panel Discussion at the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce 11th Annual Statewide Convention

The Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) presented the Energy/Utility Panel at the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce (ILBCC) 11th Annual Statewide Convention, which was held August 23 and 24 in Peoria, Illinois. Leaders from IUBDC member utilities participated in the interactive panel discussion, moderated by Vincent Gilbert, northern regional vice president of the ILBCC, to provide an overview of challenges, opportunities, and the utilities’ shared commitment to increasing spending with diverse businesses. The panelists included the following:

  • Shirley Stennis, director of Customer Service, Ameren Illinois
  • Kevin Brookins, senior vice president of Strategy & Administration, ComEd
  • Roger Goodson, senior manager of Production and Field Services, Illinois American Water
  • Lewis Binswanger, vice president of External & Regulatory Affairs, Nicor Gas
  • Andrew (Andy) Hesselbach, vice president of Construction, Peoples Gas & North Shore Gas

Panelists shared that corporate initiatives to encourage diversity and inclusiveness have increased diverse spend with several women, veteran and minority-women owned businesses, the panelists said. Panelists also discussed the role of the IUBDC in supporting individual utility efforts to advance the utilization of diverse businesses, and connected attendees with key business diversity contacts at each utility.


Professional Services Summit, June 28, 2016


“How to” seminar focuses on the value of diverse suppliers building business relationships

Illinois utilities host seminar for diverse businesses seeking information on how to participate in company supplier programs

Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) should build relationships with the companies they want to do business with to stay informed about upcoming opportunities, said Gery Chico, senior partner with Chico and Nunes, during his keynote address at the Illinois Utility Business Diversity Council’s (IUBDC) first Professional Services seminar.

Diverse business leaders from nearly 100 professional service firms, seeking to do business with Illinois’ utility companies, joined representatives from engineering, consulting, finance, and legal firms in Joliet, Ill., in late June for the seminar

Chico, whose Chicago-based law firm specializes in real estate, government regulation and business counseling, shared insights from his years of experience providing consulting services to large companies, including utilities. He provided tips on how to build long-term relationships with large companies and emphasized the importance of effective communication, follow-up and project management.

Additionally, supplier diversity leaders from local and national energy companies, including Ameren, Illinois; Exelon – ComEd’s parent company; Illinois American Water; Southern Company – Nicor Gas’ parent company; and WEC Energy Group – parent company to Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, participated in an interactive panel. During the panel, participants and members of the audience talked about the diverse supplier application processes, requirements and what they look for when evaluating potential vendors. Panel members addressed a variety of questions from the audience, some of which focused on topics such as identifying key access points outside of purchasing, how to become a Tier-1 supplier, and services that may be available from the utilities to aid high-potential suppliers in building their businesses to meet the utility’s needs.

The day concluded with one-on-one meetings between IUBDC’s utility leaders from respective procurement departments and prospective vendors. They had the opportunity to network and share information about upcoming projects.

The IUBDC was formed in June 2015 as a forum for best practice sharing and information exchange among Illinois’ utilities with a focus on advancing the growth and utilization of diverse businesses in Illinois. The founding IUBDC members include Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas


AABE 39th National Conference, April 19-22, 2016

Members of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) gathered in Chicago, April 19-22, for the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) 39th National Conference. During the four-day event, industry and community leaders and diverse business enterprises from throughout the country gathered to discuss emerging policies, issues and advancements impacting the energy industry. Experts also talked about ways minority businesses can expand their reach and grow business opportunities. 

On April 19th, the IUBDC hosted a session titled “How Big Is Your Table.” The session was designed to help prospective small and diverse suppliers navigate the process to compete for business opportunities, and highlight the value of the AABE, IUBDC and other organizations to help diversify the supplier base in the region. Shelia Hill-Morgan, president and CEO, Chicago Minority Supplier Diversity Council, served as the moderator. Emmett Vaughn, director of the Office of Diverse Business Empowerment, Exelon Corporation; and Jerry Fulmer, vice president of Supplier Diversity Initiative, Peoples Gas/North Shore Gas, served as panelists.

Later that afternoon, AABE hosted an “Empowered to Connect” session that provided business representatives an opportunity to connect with diverse suppliers that can deliver creative, high-quality products and services for their businesses.

To see photos from this event, please visit the Council Photo Gallery.


IUBDC Business Diversity Think Tank, November 30, 2015

Business diversity advocacy organization leaders, commissioners and legislators joined the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council on Monday, November 30th for a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities for diverse businesses to partner with utilities in Illinois.

Panelists included Omar Duque, president and CEO, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Vincent Gilbert, regional V.P., Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce; Georgia Marsh, chief development officer, Women’s Business Development Center; Shelia Hill-Morgan, president and CEO, Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council; Jorge Perez, executive director, Hispanic American Construction Industry Association and John Scifers, president, Elite Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business Network, Illinois Chapter.

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IUBDC Business Partnership Forum, November 30, 2015

More than 20 diverse businesses partnered with one or more of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council’s member utilities gathered for the IUBDC’s inaugural business partnership forum. Supplier diversity representatives from Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas shared updates regarding opportunities to partner with the utilities. Then, businesses had the opportunity to meet with each utility in small groups.

The purpose of the event was to provide existing diverse business partners with access to key leaders from utilities that may expand partnership opportunities in the future. In addition, businesses were able to network with other diverse businesses.

“It was nice to be paired with other diverse firms,” said Bony Dawood, president of Dawood Engineering. “We can help each other out and it is another way to work with the utilities and show that we are an established firm capable of success.”