VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Oct. 26, 2020 – Since mid-March, businesses across the country and here in Hampton Roads, have had to re-organize, shift priorities and pivot how they do business. As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact every part of our lives, anticipating and resolving supply chain obstacles has become more critical than ever.
As one of Southeast Virginia’s largest economic engines, the commitment of Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) to support the needs of the small business community across Hampton Roads is as strong as ever and continues to grow even during one of the most challenging times for diverse and minority-owned businesses.
As a show of commitment to working with diverse businesses, VNG has purchased more than $31.1 million in goods and services from diverse businesses this year through September, an increase of 53% over the same time frame in 2019. This includes the purchase of pipeline, along with welding, hauling and paving restoration services, and contracting the modernization of the natural gas infrastructure across the service territory.
That’s an increase of nearly $10 million year over year, with VNG surpassing its supplier diversity goal by 14.3% through September.
“We are proud of what we have accomplished as we continue to work to build a more diverse supply chain network here at VNG,” said Robert Duvall, Virginia Natural Gas president. “These partnerships are yet another significant step in our work to foster a diverse and inclusive community.”
But with so much of the country’s “business as usual” disrupted during COVID-19, VNG is working closely with many diverse and minority-owned supply businesses through unorthodox channels to make sure they have the tools necessary to become a supplier to the company, especially during these times of social distancing.
To help grow the company’s supplier diversity pipeline, the company has established a robust supplier development program to build capabilities and capacity of businesses, enhance their competitiveness, and support growth in the community.
In April, VNG, in coordination with parent company Southern Company Gas, started Supplier Development Reimagined, a program aimed to help minority and disadvantage businesses understand how the process works in becoming a business partner with VNG.
The challenge this year has been conducting the 18-month in-person program that coaches and provides mentorship for businesses on how to conduct business with VNG.
To accomplish this, VNG has turned to conducting the training virtually.
Virtual classroom instruction has included discussion on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), payroll protection program, leadership training, and re-entry legal implications and workplace sanitation.
“Across the country, small businesses that form the economic backbone have been facing immediate and sometimes crushing financial pressure because of the COVID-19,” said Tremese Davis, former director of Supplier Sustainability and Inclusion Growth for Southern Company. “While it has been difficult conducting everything virtually, we are passionate about supporting minority businesses which makes it especially exciting to launch the virtual series to help meet their specific needs.”
New to the program, Joe Clark, owner of C&S Hauling in Newport News, attended the virtual sessions and feels lucky to be one of the few businesses selected to attend. As a small business owner with only 11 employees, Clark said he is looking to grow his business and become a tier-one contractor with Virginia Natural Gas.
“I started with one dump truck after working construction with my dad,” said Clark. “As a minority-business owner, it’s important to take advantage of the opportunities that Virginia Natural Gas has given us. Through this training, it is evident that the company is committed to working with small business owners in the community and dedicated to helping us grow.”
Virginia Natural Gas has a strong commitment in reinvesting in the communities it serves, added Duvall, by fostering entrepreneurship in highly impacted minority groups. Through training, education and mentorship, the company is helping small and disadvantaged businesses grow even with the current economic challenges many small businesses face due to the pandemic.
“These virtual sessions are another example of how essential our diverse suppliers are to our company,” Duvall said. “It’s important for our potential suppliers to prepare for what is on the other side of this pandemic and this is where true partnerships work together for successful outcomes.”
About Virginia Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas is one of four natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides natural gas service to nearly 300,000 customers in southeast Virginia and has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers. Consistently ranked in the top quartile for customer satisfaction by J.D. Power and Associates, the company has also been recognized by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association for its safety, community outreach and educational programs, and was named Local Distribution Company for three consecutive years. Virginia Natural Gas has been ranked by its business customers as being one of the most Trusted Business Partners in the utility industry according to Cogent Reports, and as one of the Top Workplaces in Hampton Roads by Inside Business. For more information, visit virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company. Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.2 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in four states and approximately 700,000 retail customers through its companies that market natural gas. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines, asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit southerncompanygas.com.
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