Illinois Executives Forge Unique Bond
‘Big 3’ Charting State’s Energy Future
When Richard Mark, Charles Matthews, and Melvin D. Williams get together, a collective energy fills the room. An observer notices the natural rapport that exists between the three executives, whether they’re sharing a personal story or talking business. What doesn’t exist is the executive rivalry that one might expect to see with three corporate leaders from the same state in the same industry.
Also, unmistakable, even in 2019, is that three African-American males sit at the helm of three of the largest and most influential energy providers in Illinois. The companies – Ameren Illinois, Peoples Energy, encompassing Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas; and Nicor Gas – deliver electricity and natural gas to more than 4.4 million customers in the state. These multi-billion-dollar enterprises collectively employ nearly 7,500 workers.
Circumstances brought the group, we’ll call them the “Big Three,”together, affording them the opportunity to not only learn from one another, but to collectively help shepherd their companies and the Illinois utility sector through a period of unprecedented growth and change. Along the way the work they are doing is paving the way
for the next generation of businesses and employees to thrive.
“We’re very comfortable with each other,” said Mark, chairman and president of Ameren Illinois, a distributor of natural gas and electricity to more than 1.2 million customers. “I have a great deal of respect for Melvin and Charles and what they have been able to accomplish for their companies, customers and shareholders.”
The three became acquainted through their leadership roles on the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC). A first-of-its-kind coalition of state utilities, the IUBDC was formed in 2015 for the express purpose of getting leaders like Mark, Matthews, and Williams to sit at the same table. Along with charter members Commonwealth Edison and Illinois American Water Company, Ameren Illinois, Peoples Energy, and Nicor Gas are making significant investments in strengthening the state’s electric, natural gas, and water infrastructure. The execution of these capital-intensive projects requires a base of skilled external contractors – welders, pipefitters, electricians, maintenance workers, engineers, financial experts, and more. The IUBDC’s focus – and by extension that of the Big Three – is on opening doors for a growing share of those projects to be awarded to minority- women- and veteran-owned businesses.
The results have been impressive. In 2017, IUBDC-member utilities spent a combined $1.05 billion with Illinois-based diverse businesses, including $477 million on goods and services provided by minority enterprises. IUBDC initiatives have contributed an incremental $2.05 billion to the Illinois GDP, supported 14,200 jobs in Illinois, and added $341.5 million in taxes collected by federal, state and local governments.
The Big Three credit the Council for creating a spirit of cooperation in leaders of companies that don’t compete in the literal sense, but who have historically kept plans close to the vest. — Read the full story here
Sept 6, 2018 – Download the press release here
IUBDC study shows economic impact of Illinois utilities efforts
Diversity coalition report shows impact of spending with minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and small business enterprises
CHICAGO (September 6, 2018) – A study chartered by the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) revealed that the $1.05 billion that leading Illinois utilities spent on goods and services provided by minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and small business enterprises added more than $2 billion to the state gross domestic product in 2017. The study was conducted by supplier.io, a Chicago-based research company that works with businesses to improve supplier development results.
According to the economic impact study:
“The results of the study demonstrate that diverse suppliers are key drivers of economic growth, job creation and the financial well-being of our communities and our state,” said Richard J. Mark, chairman of the IUBDC board of directors, and chairman and president of Ameren Illinois. “Every member company in the IUBDC has demonstrated a commitment to not only source from diverse companies, but also to participate actively in developing the capabilities of these firms to participate at a higher level of our supply chains.”
The IUBDC was formed in 2015, with support from the Illinois Commerce Commission, to increase business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices among Illinois’ leading utilities. IUBDC charter members include Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas.
In 2017, IUBDC facilitated relationship building with leaders of diverse companies in sectors such as engineering, consulting, finance, legal, real estate and technical services. Through targeted events and outreach initiatives, IUBDC opened the door for more than 400 diverse companies to do business with the utilities in 2017. David Mason + Associates, Inc. is a certified minority-owned business enterprise (MBE) and now a preferred engineering and construction support services provider to many of Illinois’ largest utilities.
“Our relationships with IUBDC has allowed us to expand our practice into other regional and national opportunities with other utility providers,” said Taylor Mason, principal at David Mason + Associates. “In fact, the growth in our engineering and construction services has helped contribute to our firm’s economic impact and employment opportunities throughout Illinois.”
Not only is the IUBDC increasing business opportunities for diverse companies, but it’s also providing educational opportunities and forums to share best practices. In a joint effort with National Minority Supplier Development Council, the IUBDC entered into a partnership with the Kellogg Executive Program at Northwestern University to provide certified, established, expansion-oriented MBEs with the tools and skills needed to achieve and sustain accelerated growth.
“Thanks to a scholarship program from IUBDC, we were able to participate in a world-class training and development opportunity to engage in succession planning, capacity building acumen to enhance our long-term, value-added partnerships with multiple utility purchasing representatives,” said Edilberto Ortiz, president of E.C. Ortiz & Company, a certified MBE Asian male-owned business enterprise.
Since its formation three years ago, IUBDC has increased opportunities for minority-, woman- and veteran-owned enterprises to do business with the utility sector. That commitment continues, as the IUBDC has invested in developing new tools to help connect utilities to qualified diverse suppliers throughout Illinois. One such tool, expected to launch later this year, is an interactive GIS mapping program that will enable utilities to quickly locate qualified diverse suppliers for a wide range of equipment, technology and business support services.
Coalition of Illinois utilities opens doors for diverse suppliers in 2017
Charter members of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) spent a combined total of more than $1.25 billion on goods and services provided by minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses in 2017, a 7.8% increase over the prior year. IUBDC was formed in 2015 to increase business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices among Illinois leading utilities. IUBDC members include Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas.
“These results demonstrate that our companies are opening doors for more diverse businesses to participate in utility supply chains,” said Richard J. Mark, chairman of the IUBDC Board of Directors, and chairman and President of Ameren Illinois. “Partnering with diverse suppliers is not only good for business, it contributes to stronger local and regional economies.”
Mark cited the landmark Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) or “Smart Grid Bill” enacted in 2011, and the Natural Gas Consumer, Safety & Reliability Act, enacted in 2013 as catalysts for growth in utility spending with diverse suppliers. Under these programs, Illinois’ natural gas and electric utilities are undertaking a massive upgrade to the state’s aging energy delivery infrastructure, installing new technologies and equipment to reduce outages, improve reliability, and provide customers with programs to manage and save energy. In addition, Illinois American Water is investing in modernization of the water distribution system, replace aging mains, and upgrading well stations.
“We’re proud that more diverse suppliers than ever are providing IUBDC members with the high quality equipment, technology, and business support services we need to execute these important infrastructure projects.” Mark said.
Contributing to the increase in diverse-supplier procurement was the formation of a Prime Partner Institute to increase utilization of diverse businesses throughout the supply chain. In 2017, the Council held three targeted events to engage prime (Tier 1) contractors with potential sub-contractors. These efforts were recognized by the Women’s Business Development Council, which awarded IUBDC with its 2017 Future Forward Award.
Other resources IUBDC is developing include a supplier registration and mapping tool to provide procurement specialists with insights into the availability of diverse supplier resources, and a training library to provide diverse suppliers with a one-stop location for insights on IUBDC-member procurement processes. The IUBDC has worked to develop and strengthen partnerships and collaboration with key associations such as the American Association of Blacks in Energy, Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus and the Women’s Business Development Center, also created new buy/sell opportunities for qualified diverse contractors.
IUBDC marks 2017 accomplishments
Through its targeted events and outreach initiatives, the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) opened the door for more than 400 diverse companies to do business with the state’s leading utilities. The Council actively facilitated buy/sell relationships with leaders of diverse companies in sectors such as engineering, consulting, finance, legal, real estate and technical services.
Among its accomplishments in 2017, the IUBDC formed a Prime Partner Institute to increase utilization of diverse businesses throughout the supply chain. The Council held three targeted events to engage prime (Tier 1) contractors with potential job partners. The IUBDC’s efforts to advance supplier diversity were recognized with the 2017 Future Forward Award from the Women’s Business Development Council.
“IUBDC member utilities are investing millions to upgrade our infrastructure and improve services to our customers,” said Richard J. Mark, chairman and president, Ameren Illinois and Board Chairman of the IUBDC. “We’re making great strides in bringing more opportunities for qualified suppliers to help us achieve our business objectives while strengthening economies in communities throughout Illinois.”
Other notable achievements included:
The IUBDC formed in 2015 to grow business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices.
April 4, 2017
IUBDC opens doors for diverse suppliers
Melvin D. Williams doesn’t have to think long when asked to name the signature accomplishment within the first two years since the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) was created. Williams, President of Naperville-based Nicor Gas, is the Chairman of the IUBDC, formed in 2015 to facilitate best practice sharing among the state’s leading natural gas, electric, and water utilities. The IUBDC aims to increase opportunities for minority-owned, woman-owned and veteran-owned enterprises to do business with the utility sector.
“What I’ve been most proud of is how the leaders of major utilities have collaborated with each other, our stakeholders and our business partners to identify ways the IUBDC can support and advance supplier diversity in Illinois,” Williams said.
The first two years of the IUBDC have been focused largely on establishing working committees, building a network and identifying where the Council can have the most impact. Several events were orchestrated to engage collaborative discussion with potential suppliers, and facilitate meetings with utility purchasing reps. The IUBDC Board of Directors – comprised of senior officers from Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas – developed the framework for how the utilities would work together and govern the organization.
During the first quarter of this year, the IUBDC laid out its three year strategic roadmap. Among the key initiatives, the Council will focus on:
“While we have come a long way in a short time, we recognize that there are major opportunities still in front of us,” said Williams. “Given the significant opportunities across all areas of our businesses, we will need strong, diverse business partners to be successful.”
IUBDC strategic goals – 2017-2019
Access and Enablement
Enable diverse businesses seeking to grow themselves into sustainable enterprises by measurably increasing access to deeper industry and professional insights and skills training
Drive awareness, access, and positive economic impact in communities serving as key incubating environments for new diverse businesses by working strategically with community and grass-roots organizations
Identify and understand needs and goals of the diverse array of external and internal stakeholder groups impacted by IUBDC in order to better communicate IUBDC’s vision, mission, goals, and impact and drive stronger engagement with stakeholder groups
More information is available about the IUBDC at http://www.iubdc.com
June 28, 2016 – Download the press release here
Illinois utilities, diverse suppliers build business relationships
IUBDC’s Professional Services Summit opens doors for new contract opportunities
JOLIET (June 28, 2016) – Purchasing representatives from six Illinois utilities and the leaders of minority and woman-owned companies met today to explore business opportunities at the Illinois Utility Business Diversity Council’s (IUBDC) first Professional Services Summit in Joliet.
Business leaders from nearly 100 engineering, consulting, finance, and legal firms participated in meetings with utility representatives who are looking to source hundreds of millions of dollars in goods and services from diverse businesses in 2016-17. Represented utilities included IUBDC members Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.
“IUBDC member utilities are investing millions to upgrade our infrastructure and improve services to our customers,” said Jerrold Hill, managing director of supplier diversity for AGL Resources, parent company of Illinois-based Nicor Gas. “Today’s summit put our purchasing professionals face-to-face with qualified suppliers who can help us achieve our business objectives while strengthening economies in communities throughout Illinois.”
Unlike a traditional trade-show style expo, the Summit was orchestrated to engage in collaborative discussion and provide scheduled time for diverse suppliers connect with multiple utility purchasing reps.
“IUBDC provides smaller firms like ours with the opportunity to demonstrate how our innovative solutions can add value to their member utilities,” said Laura Kenton, Business Development Manager of Urban GIS, a provider of geographic information systems and infrastructure consulting to the public and private sectors. “Today’s Professional Services Summit enabled Urban GIS to network with prospective partners and deepen our relationships with existing ones.”
The Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council was formed in 2015 to grow business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices.
The Council has placed an emphasis on helping the utilities with their respective procurement goals for minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned and small business enterprises. More information is available about the IUBDC at http://www.iubdc.com.
May 9, 2016 – Download the news release here
IUBDC announces plan to further advance Illinois diverse business community
Council makes great progress in its first year and outlines plan for 2016
CHICAGO (May 9, 2016) – Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas filed annual supplier diversity reports with the Illinois Commerce Commission on April 15, 2016. The filing was the first since the formation of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) in 2015.
“First, it is important to recognize that this year, we came together to discuss the findings of our individual supplier diversity reports,” said Melvin Williams, chair of the IUBDC Board of Directors and president of Nicor Gas. “That kind of transparency and collaborative spirit demonstrates that the IUBDC is making an impact.”
The filed reports show that overall among Illinois utilities, 2015 spending with diverse businesses increased significantly from the previous years:
Total spending in certified diverse business community by IUBDC member utilities
2014: $617.2 MM
2015: $875.1 MM
Through discussing the findings of the reports and experiences of each member utility, the Board of Directors identified opportunities where the IUBDC can play a role in supporting and furthering the efforts of each utility.
For example, the IUBDC recognizes that the member utilities can work together to strengthen the bench of diverse businesses trained and ready to meet the unique needs of the energy and water utility sectors. By referring qualified businesses, supporting training events and sharing best practices to onboard new partners, the IUBDC can help its member utilities mitigate the risk of decreased spend with diverse suppliers in the event a small diverse business is acquired by a larger, non-diverse company or when one chooses not to bid or is not the successful bidder on a large project for various reasons.
In less than one year, the IUBDC has created an organizational structure and charter, held two inaugural stakeholder events, launched its website as a central resource, and recently passed its first strategic plan. In addition, the Council made strides to work toward a more uniform reporting structure for annual supplier diversity reports to the Illinois Commerce Commission.
During the year ahead, the IUBDC plans to hold two additional stakeholder events, engage in a roundtable discussion at the American Association of Blacks in Energy National Conference, and continue to share best practices, successes and challenges to advance opportunities for diverse businesses among the member utilities across the state of Illinois.
Nov 30, 2015 – Download the press release here
Illinois utilities host think tank forum for diverse supplier businesses
Newly Formed Illinois Utility Business Diversity Council Focuses on Increasing Partnerships with Diverse Businesses in Illinois
CHICAGO (Nov. 30, 2015) – The recently formed Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) held its inaugural event centered on creating strategies to increase business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of business practices.
More than 20 diverse businesses participated in the half-day event that kicked off with a luncheon discussion between the suppliers and Illinois advocacy groups, including 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.
The day’s activities also included panel discussions providing information about best practices, navigating diverse supplier processes and creating awareness of opportunities for suppliers to work together. It concluded with a networking event where the diverse business participants mingled with company representatives, advocacy leaders and panel participants.
“Through our commitment to the IUBDC, we will enhance our individual business diversity efforts, make a greater impact in fueling our state’s economy, and honor the core values of each of our companies,” said Melvin D. Williams, president of Nicor Gas and chair of the board of directors of the IUBDC. Board members also include: Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd; Bruce Hauk, president of Illinois American Water, Richard Mark, president of Ameren Illinois and Charles Matthews, president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.
The Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council members include Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas. In 2015, these companies have spent nearly $830 million with diverse businesses.
June 11, 2015 – Download the press release here
New utilities business diversity council focused on collaboration and best practices
CHICAGO (June 11, 2015) – Illinois utility leaders announced today the formation of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council designed to grow business opportunities for diverse suppliers through closer collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices.
The Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council members include Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas. In 2014, these companies spent a combined total of approximately $708 million on goods and services provided by minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. In addition, the companies spent approximately $440 million with small businesses.
Growth in utilities’ spend with diverse suppliers is due in part to the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) or “Smart Grid Bill” enacted in 2011, and the Natural Gas Consumer, Safety & Reliability Act enacted in 2013. As a result, Illinois utilities are undertaking a massive upgrade to the state’s aging energy delivery infrastructure, installing new technologies and equipment to reduce outages, improve reliability, and provide customers with programs to manage and save energy.
“Illinois utilities are making investments to modernize and improve their infrastructure, which is creating opportunities to expand our diverse supplier base. The formation of this Council will support the utilities’ efforts in driving collaboration, development and utilization of diverse businesses,” said Beth Reese, chief financial officer, AGL Resources, and former president of Nicor Gas, an AGL Resources subsidiary.
“ComEd has a long history of diverse supplier engagement, and through the investments we’re making we have a great opportunity to increase our spend with partners who are helping us to innovate and create solutions that enhance our ability to add value to customers,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd.
Illinois Commerce Commissioner Sherina E. Maye participated in the event and is encouraged by the potential of the Council. “The Illinois Commerce Commission is pleased the utilities, through this
Council, now have a forum that will help them collaboratively increase procurement with diverse suppliers,” said Commissioner Maye. “It is my hope that the Council will not only support best practice sharing, but also serve as a resource to the Commission and other stakeholders by keeping us apprised of common trends, developments, challenges and solutions that will support the continued growth of supplier diversity.”
“At Illinois American Water, we invest over $70 million a year to upgrade our critical water and wastewater infrastructure,” said Bruce Hauk, president. “We’re excited about the opportunities the Council will offer to partner with diverse businesses, help them grow and contribute to local and regional economies.”
“Each of the participating companies has demonstrated that being inclusive at every level leads to improved services for our customers,” said Richard J. Mark, president of Ameren Illinois. “By actively bringing diverse businesses into our supply chains, we’re opening up new avenues for job creation and building stronger communities throughout Illinois.”
Creating a uniform reporting system for expenditures with diverse certified business across all services sought by utility companies will be one of the first priorities for the new Council. “Establishing a common framework through which we can more effectively collaborate and measure the success of our efforts will help all members in their efforts to engage certified diverse suppliers,” said John Kleczynski, president, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas.
James H. Lowry, a nationally recognized workforce and supplier diversity expert, has been working with the utilities to establish the Council and will serve in an advisory capacity along with James R. Monk, president of the Illinois Energy Association.
Once a year, the Council will submit a written report to inform the Illinois Commerce Commission on activities and progress toward meeting goals and objectives. The Council will also coordinate an annual meeting for diverse businesses, legislators and the ICC, to discuss the evolving state of diverse business growth spend in the Illinois utilities industry. The Council will also place an emphasis on helping the utilities with their respective procurement goals for minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned and small business enterprises.