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Utilities throughout the state form diversity council

From Illinois Business Journal news services

Illinois utility leaders announced on Thursday the formation of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council designed to grow business opportunities through diversity of suppliers.

The council members include Ameren Illinois, ComEd, Illinois American Water, Nicor Gas, North Shore Gas and Peoples Gas.

In 2014, those companies spent a combined estimated $698 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 what they’ve spent with diverse suppliers is credited in part to the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act or “Smart Grid Bill” enacted in 2011, and the Natural Gas Consumer, Safety & Reliability Act enacted in 2013. 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,” she said. “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 of Illinois American Water. “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.

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