By Wendell Dallas, President/CEO, Nicor Gas and Board Member, Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC)
Supplier inclusion brings innovation, quality and overall competitive value to our business. For me, supplier inclusion means we’re bigger than our bottom line – we’re finding talent and developing it from the local communities we are serving. That ultimately leads to well-paying jobs in the energy industry and is helping Illinois grow.
Diversity in our supplier base brings a variety of perspectives, experience and ideas to our organization. By engaging with suppliers from different industries, backgrounds and cultures, we can tap into a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This diversity of thought can lead to innovative solutions, improved processes and new approaches to business challenges.
At Nicor Gas, it is an intentional effort to open doors for diverse businesses across all areas of our company with educational and mentorship opportunities, and we continue to see the positive social and economic impact our work has on the lives of families in the communities we serve.
A perfect example of this is our work in Pembroke Township. Nicor Gas is now authorized to serve Hopkins Park and Pembroke Township with natural gas service, which requires the construction and installation of approximately 30 miles of new natural gas main. Century Construction and Mosley Construction are two local, diverse construction companies that were specifically sourced for the project.
And in January, when we celebrated the groundbreaking of the pipeline that will bring a low-cost, reliable and safe energy source for those who want it, local caterer Kountry Girlz Kitchen was brought in to feed the guests. We are proud to work with the community and bring energy choice to Hopkins Park and Pembroke Township, while bolstering economic and infrastructure investments that can lead to job creation.
Inclusive procurement practices provide opportunities for diverse businesses that in turn increase representation, create job opportunities and provide economic advancement for historically underrepresented groups, including minorities, women, veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
By actively seeking out and partnering with suppliers from different backgrounds, we contribute to creating a more equitable and inclusive business ecosystem. This approach not only benefits our organization but also supports the broader economic development of the communities we are privileged to serve.
Last year, Nicor Gas spent $377 million with minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses; more than half of that was with Illinois-based companies. And our engagement with small, minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses in 2020 and 2021 led to over $1.2 billion in contributions to the Illinois economy and sustained more than 4,000 jobs.
But we’re more than an energy company, we’re investing our time, talent and resources into ensuring our communities are better because we’re here.
Innovative programs like our Supplier Diversity Business Development Program help local diverse companies become more efficient organizations and business partners through scholarships to business schools, assistance in the certification process and access to internal developmental programs.
We also have an active Diverse Business Partnership committee with employees from dozens of different areas of the business assisting in identifying potential diverse partners and developing successful collaborative relationships.
All of this is in addition to the great work being done by the members of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council. The mission and purpose of the IUBDC is rooted in diversity of thought, experience and knowledge.
As a founding member company of the IUBDC, we continue to play an essential role in efforts to grow business opportunities for diverse suppliers through collaboration, technical development and sharing of best practices.