By Tony Khing
SAN FRANCISCO—More than 200 representatives of LGBT-owned business enterprises came to PG&E’s San Francisco headquarters on Monday (March 2) to participate on the first stop of a nationwide LGBT Business Builder. This historic initiative, co-sponsored by PG&E, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), is designed to remove barriers and increase access to strategic growth opportunities for America’s LGBT business owners.
The workshop provided businesses with information on the importance of being certified as an NGLCC LGBT Business Enterprise, the ways to leverage resources and information from the SBA into procurement contracts, and how to take advantage of business opportunities now available in California because of Assembly Bill (AB) 1678. This law, which went into effect Jan. 1, requires utilities to give LGBT businesses the same access to contracts as other minority, women and disabled veteran enterprises.
“This is an historic first in the country where LGBT-owned businesses are being included under the law in the supply chain,” said NGLCC Co-Founder Chance Mitchell.
But PG&E has been ahead of legislation and other utility companies in courting LGBT-owned enterprises. In 2012, PG&E was the first utility to pursue these businesses for their supply chain. “We’re very proud of that. It makes good business sense,” said PG&E Senior Vice President of Safety and Shared Services Des Bell.
“PG&E’s commitment to diversity among our supply chain and our workforce is not optics, nor is it just lip service. It’s the way we do business and the way we will continue to provide safe, reliable and affordable gas and electricity service to Californians,” he added.
Bell explained that the LGBT Business Builder was a perfect situation to introduce these businesses to PG&E. “We see an opportunity to continue to build on our on-going efforts to support small and medium-sized businesses. LGBT business enterprises will be much better informed about the opportunities in working with utilities, particularly with PG&E,” he said.
SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, who delivered the keynote speech, praised PG&E’s efforts at nurturing small and medium-sized businesses. Thanks to the utility’s supplier diversity program, which helped prepare these enterprises to work with PG&E by supporting continuing education and counseling, most of the utility’s suppliers have been able to grow.
“PG&E has sponsored business after business to make sure they’re ready for the supply chain to get lender- and contract-ready. I’ve met so many entrepreneurs who said they were sponsored by PG&E to take courses, classes and counseling on their nickel,” she said.
There were two important takeaways for attendees from the event:
- First: why an LGBT enterprise should be certified by the NGLCC. “Certification will help you compete for corporate contracts. Studies show that when small businesses gain access to supply chain opportunities, their revenues increase by 250 percent and their employment increases by 150 percent,” said Contreras-Sweet during her speech.
- The second: a clear message that business opportunities with utilities are available.
“There are companies, particularly in the utility space, actively looking for LGBT-certified suppliers,” said Mitchell.
“We want to carry the message to the LGBT business community that there’s a big business opportunity to work with PG&E and we encourage it,” said Bell.
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