Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the nation’s premier utility industry trade association, convened its 30th anniversary conference focused on developing opportunities for diverse suppliers.
The conference was attended by over 20 utility companies from across the country, major utility industry prime vendors and minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) that have either sold or aspire to successfully sell to utility companies.
This year’s conference was held in Santa Clara, California and the organization took advantage of the site by taking utility industry executives on an exclusive tour of Silicon Valley.
The tour was part of the effort to showcase important industry trends and topics such as distributive generation, hurricane storm preparation, and sustainability. Minority and women entrepreneurs with innovative solutions also participated in a competition in which they made marketing pitches to a panel of utility industry judges.
Con Edison Supplier Diversity Director Michael Jones-Bey moderated a panel, titled “Leveraging Innovation for Supplier Diversity Success and Increasing Corporate Profits.” The panel featured minority and women entrepreneurs that are innovating and helping supplier diversity programs increase their diversity spend.
The panelists highlighted solutions they are marketing in the areas of advanced energy efficiency, cyber security, mobile enterprise solutions, lidar precision scanning, and radio frequency ID systems.
“When I found out that our conference was actually going to be in Silicon Valley, we figured that it would be interesting to get a first-hand look at technology that has the potential to have an important impact on our industry,” said Jones-Bey. “As supplier diversity professionals, it is our job to understand the utility space and recruit MWBEs that have solutions to the challenges we face.”
Reactions to the conference were overwhelmingly positive. Al Limaye, President of Logistics Solutions, an integrator of IT solutions, said, “I was inspired by the panel presentations, and as the owner of a minority owned business, this conference has been an affirmation for me. The companies that we heard from today, such as HP Energy, VisionIT, and G.R.M.C., prove that MWBEs can level the playing field and compete based on innovation. My hat goes off to the Edison Electric Institute. I can’t wait until next year’s conference.”