By Lenny Singh, Chairman and President Ameren Illinois and Chairman, Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC)
Last year, my family and I made a big move. We relocated from New York City to the Land of Lincoln, so I could take on the role of chairman and president of Ameren Illinois. As I began this exciting new chapter in my career, I reflected on a much earlier journey that made it all possible.
I was born in Guyana, South America. Looking for better opportunities for their 5 young sons, our family immigrated to the United States in the 1980s. I remember the obstacles we faced and the opportunities that made all the difference.
A wise person once said: “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and diversity can be viewed through the same lens. My parents helped prepare me through their example, their sacrifice, their work ethic, and the value they placed on education. And I was able to earn opportunities along the way that became turning points in my life’s journey.
In coming to the U.S., I had an opportunity to continue my education and build a career in the energy space that has spanned more than 30 years. My own personal experience of diversity, as a person of color and an immigrant, has shaped who I am and every aspect of my approach to leadership.
As a leader today, I have an obligation and I am committed to opening doors for others — particularly those who might be overlooked, underestimated, or marginalized. I am committed to mentoring, education and training that helps prepare people to seize the opportunities that come their way.
Ameren Illinois actively works to provide those opportunities. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be part of the Ameren team and the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC.)
As a leading provider of energy for our state, Ameren Illinois has a unique opportunity – and an obligation — to be deliberate and ensure our workforce, vendor base, and investments reflect the diversity of the customers and communities we serve.
A shining example of diversity in action can be found at the new East St. Louis Solar Energy Center, the first power generation facility owned and operated by Ameren Illinois in the last 25 years.
To bring this project to life over the past year, Ameren Illinois actively sought to open doors for local businesses, especially diverse-owned firms, and diverse workers. Every facet of the construction and operation is representative of the community where the facility is located.
For too long, communities like East St. Louis were relegated to the sidelines while others reaped the rewards of economic development. With this $12 million project, we have planted a seed of renewal that will put East St. Louis at the center of our region’s clean energy revolution.
Not only will the new facility provide enough clean energy to power 500 homes, it also will help small local businesses go beyond surviving to thriving. Ameren Illinois will continue to work with the IUBDC to strengthen our supply chain and make inclusion a way of doing business.
Together, we will empower Illinois citizens and communities to create sustainable change. And that is the power of diversity.