VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Nov. 27, 2019 – As one of Southeast Virginia’s largest economic engines, the commitment of Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) to support the diverse small business community across southeast Virginia is as strong as ever and continues to grow.
During a recent presentation to employees by the Supplier Diversity team from VNG’s parent company, Southern Company Gas, it was announced that diverse businesses supplied more than $23.8 million in goods and services to the company last year.
That’s a $6.8 million increase since 2015, with Virginia Natural Gas on target to surpass its goal by 0.2%.
Since the program’s inception, supplier diversity has grown from a program focused on economic empowerment and compliance to becoming an organizational value that supports strategic objectives.
“These objectives include developing viable long-term business partnerships and increasing the economic impact within the communities where we do business,” said Tremese Davis, Supplier Diversity director for Southern Company Gas. “Our focus has been on leveraging the significant opportunity we have to increase diverse supplier participation in the company’s infrastructure investment programs as well as all other areas of our business.”
During the past five years, VNG has made tremendous strides in strengthening relationships with minority, women and veteran-owned businesses interested in opportunities to work with and support the company. This year, VNG has already invested $11.5 million with diverse-owned suppliers, or nearly 17% of the company’s total expenditures, a nearly $1.5 million increase from this time last year.
Overall, VNG has invested a total of nearly $70 million with diverse business partners since 2015, with $35 million invested with Virginia-based businesses.
“We recognize that diverse suppliers are essential to the services we provide to our customers,” said Jim Kibler, president of Virginia Natural Gas. “It helps build economic opportunities in our local communities and further fosters the growth of the diverse supplier community.”
Virginia ranks among the top 10 states in the nation in terms of the percentage of total employers that are minority-owned. (VirginiaBusiness.com) In 2015, 21.4% of businesses with employees in the state of Virginia were owned by minorities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2015 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs. Virginia also ranked 10th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of total minority-owned businesses.
The real success is the impact Virginia Natural Gas is having on local businesses across the state like W.E. Curling Pipeline, a woman-owned business in Chesapeake that has been installing natural gas pipeline for VNG since the mid-1980s.
Founded in 1976, this family-run business initially started as a husband and wife team welding natural gas pipeline as contractors when they decided to go into business for themselves. Their business plan when they first started was to “survive and pay the bills.”
“We had to hustle for every job we got,” said Bonnie Curling, president of the company. “A few years after we started the business, VNG approached us and provided us with an opportunity to install pipeline on a few jobs and the partnership grew over the years.”
Virginia Natural Gas recognized the potential in the 30-year partnership with W.E. Curling Pipeline as a woman-owned business and continues to collaborate with them on multiple projects throughout its service area.
The company has also grown over the years with an estimated annual revenue of more than $14 million. The staff has expanded from a handful to 115 employees that now includes welders and installers, restoration crews, and safety and compliance staff members.
“We go back a long way with Virginia Natural Gas and the relationship has been amazing,” Curling said. “It has allowed us to not only grow as a business, but as a family-owned business, and we feel like we are part of the VNG family. Just as they value us as a partner, we value them as a customer and try to do the best and most cost-efficient job we can.”
While W.E. Curling Pipeline is just one supplier-diversity success story, Virginia Natural Gas continues to look to increase minority-owned business partnerships.
“We are advocates for setting the precedent for an inclusive and diverse business community that represents our company and our community,” added Kibler. “Diversity and inclusion need to be part of everyday business practice. It helps build and foster strong economic communities and culture.”
Virginia Natural Gas is proud to have strong partnerships with suppliers and business partners and was recently ranked as being one of the most Trusted Business Partners in the utility industry for 2019, according to a Cogent Syndicated study by Escalent, formerly Market Strategies International. This is the first year that Virginia Natural Gas has participated in this study, ranking seventh among all utilities, and fourth in the South Region.
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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