MCE recently hosted our second annual, free workshop introducing local businesses to the benefits and opportunities available through the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Supplier Diversity Program. Our local Chambers of Commerce helped us get the word out, and we invited businesses to learn how to certify through this unique contracting clearinghouse for California’s multimillion-dollar utility industry.
Commonly referred to as “Supplier Diversity,” General Order (GO) 156 is a statewide program that encourages utilities to prioritize contracts and subcontracts from businesses that meet diversity qualifications. To qualify, businesses must be 51% woman-owned; minority-owned; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ)-owned; or disabled veteran-owned enterprises. After being certified as a diverse supplier, qualified businesses are listed in the CPUC’s Clearinghouse, which utilities can then access for their contracting needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has squeezed our local businesses into even more competitive environments and tighter margins, making Supplier Diversity certification another way to get local businesses noticed and ensure that they stand out among the competition. MCE wants to make sure that businesses in our communities are aware of this program, know how to qualify for the Clearinghouse, and get their questions answered. When diverse community businesses thrive, we all thrive.
This year, we adjusted our format to ensure social distancing during the Shelter-in-Place order. The virtual format encouraged participants from all over the state to attend. We received over 100 RSVPs, including a handful of out-of-state businesses interested in tapping into California’s market. We thank our fellow Community Choice Agencies (CCAs) for sharing information about this opportunity with their business partners, illustrating how CCAs can collaboratively mobilize our communities to help the State meet its social and climate action goals.
Certify and Amplify presentation and attendees.
The lineup of knowledgeable speakers represented various aspects of the Supplier Diversity Program. Here are the highlights:
- The State’s regulatory perspective: Bezawit Dilgassa is the Small Business Advocate and Liaison at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). She advocates for small and diverse businesses and implements the Commission’s Small and Diverse Business Programs.
- The industry’s contracting perspective: Lili Kwan is a Manager of Supply Chain Responsibility at PG&E and helps the company to achieve success in the areas of supplier diversity, environmental sustainability, and ethical supply chain management.
- The consultant and connector perspective: The facilitator, Teresa Davies, has 20+ years of experience in the utility and clean energy industry, including as Senior Manager of Local Customer Experience at PG&E, as the Director of Utility Sales and Account Management at Ecova, Inc., and almost a decade working for San Diego Gas & Electric in the areas of energy efficiency and electric and gas distribution design and construction. A Navy veteran, Teresa is an Advisory Board Member for Veteran Launch, a California Community Development Financial Institutions Fund providing Small Business Administration loans to qualified California small businesses owned by veterans and active-duty military personnel.
- The local and certified business perspective: Debbie Lamb is an award-winning marketing professional who owns and operates Lamb Consulting. She recently certified as a woman-owned business in Solano County and has benefitted from the program. She currently serves as Board Chairperson for Griffin Technology Academies and previously served on the Board of Directors for The Stride Center, a computer training program for underserved adults in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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