Energy leader KCP&L sees real results from its Light Source supplier diversity mentoring program through its participant and supplier Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc.
With 15 generating facilities covering 18,000 square miles, KCP&L has served as the full-service energy provider for the Kansas City, Missouri area since its founding in 1882. Supplier diversity has become a major part of the company and its growth in recent years. “For more than 25 years, KCP&L’s Supplier Diversity initiative has opened doors to minority, women-owned and small businesses and helped them to succeed in their endeavors,” says Valerie Coyazo, the Supplier Diversity Manager at KCP&L. Founded on the principle that community is only as strong as the businesses that support it, the supplier diversity program at KCP&L strengthens area businesses in order to help the local community and economy.
Supplier diversity at KCP&L goes well beyond just doing business with local diverse businesses; instead KCP&L focuses on forming lasting business relationships that lead to long-term success. As an integral part of the company, supplier diversity initiatives are supported from the top down. “Our CEO Mike Chesser believes it’s important to tap into the power of our region’s diverse supplier base because it strengthens our company and fuels our community’s economy,“ says Ms. Coyazo.
One way this is accomplished is through the Light Source program, which pairs a local minority- or women-owned business enterprise (M/WBE) with a senior KCP&L Executive, who serves as a mentor to the business. These executives offer guidance and support to the participating M/WBEs. “These businesses are an essential component of our local economy. That’s why we take the time to mentor and nurture our business partners in the community through KCP&L’s Light Source mentoring program and other various supplier development activities,” notes Ms. Coyazo.
The mission statement of the Light Source program states that the program aims “To mentor emerging diverse suppliers in distressed areas of our communities helping them develop, grow, and become viable business partners.” The phrase “Improving life in the communities we serve” is the cornerstone of KCP&L’s Guiding Principles and it is also the backbone of KCP&L’s Light Source program.
M/WBEs in the Light Source program are provided training through internal and external programs in the areas of finance, risk management, general business, training, networking and the procurement process. Executives also work with the KCP&L supplier diversity team to connect participants with subject matter experts. “All of our officers and a procurement advocate are assigned at least one supplier to mentor. They assist them in introducing them to the right people in our company to start building a relationship, help them with their business plans, marketing materials, training and introductions outside of our company,” states Ms. Coyazo.
These talented participants add a great deal of value to the Light Source Program. “A supplier diversity advocate is only as good as the people that support them, without the top down support and the procurement team support the program would not be as powerful as it is,” says Ms. Coyazo.
M/WBE suppliers can participate in the Light Source Program from one to three years, with approximately 20 diverse businesses participating at a time. Since its creation in 2007, the Light Source Program at KCP&L has provided several diverse businesses with resources and led to improvement. One recent success story is current program participant Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc., a certified SBA 8(a), SDB, MBE, DBE company focused on electrical and energy needs located in Kansas City. Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. provides a variety of services, including installation of energy and electrical systems, energy assessments, solar energy services, and other energy services.
Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. is entering its second year in the Light Source program and has benefited greatly from its participation. For Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc., participation in the Light Source program has led to several business opportunities directly in line with their offered services. “We are just thrilled by the opportunities presented to Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. by KCP&L and for our desire to do more for our community and economy,” says Gabriel Okafor, President of Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. Through the Light Source program, Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. is able to continue its mission of “helping in powering economy.”
Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. was partnered with KCP&L Executive Kevin Bryant as their Champion. Mr. Bryant currently serves as the Vice President Investor Relations and Treasurer at KCP&L. Mr. Bryant has provided a great deal of guidance to Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc., showing them not just what they can offer KCP&L as a supplier, but also providing feedback and recommending improvements for the business where needed. Mr. Bryant now serves on the advisory board of Alpha Energy and Electric Inc. due to this collaboration. Through this program, Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. has also had the opportunity to communicate directly with Mike Chesser, Chairman and CEO of Great Plains Energy and KCP&L. “The procurement advocates are dedicated to working with suppliers in our community and to including them in bid opportunities,” says Ms. Coyazo.
“Alpha has been introduced to many other companies in the Kansas City area through our program and received contracts through the introductions. They have updated their marketing materials based on feedback from their mentor. They have become more involved in the community and helping others in the community. One of the most important parts of their development is the relationship building with the officers in the company and the people they have been introduced to in the community,” adds Ms. Coyazo.
Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. has participated in a number of projects with KCP&L over the course of their involvement in the Light Source program. “The first group effort was a project involving the installation and monitoring of energy efficient appliances in the designated Green Impact Zone,” notes Ms. Coyazo. Now several additional collaborations have developed between Alpha Energy and Electric Inc. through participation in the Light Source Program. First, Alpha Energy is preparing to install energy smart thermostats in over 1,600 homes in the Kansas City area through KCP&L.
Alpha Energy and Electric Inc. is also part of the EPRI Monitoring Project, which includes a grant funded by the United States Department of Energy designated as funding for a SmartGrid project in Kansas City. Some of the homes involved in the program will receive energy efficient appliances.
On October 28, 2011, Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. was included in a media event with KCP&L, the Kansas City Missouri School District, the office of U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II and Brightergy to announce a new initiative. This large collaboration, known as the Solar Array Project, will lead to the installation of 100 kilowatt solar PV panels at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. as a part of KCP&L’s SmartGrid Demonstration project. This solar array is the first of its kind in the school district and will be the largest solar array in the Kansas City metropolitan area. Excess electricity generated from this project will be fed back into the electrical grid system.
Collaborations like these are just one reason why Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. is so pleased to be a part of the Light Source Program at KCP&L. Though Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. has been involved in the Light Source program for almost two years, they still have several goals to accomplish while involved with the program, according to Mr. Okafor. “Our expectations are to continue to build and enhance our business systems and processes, cultivate a very strong relationship with an industry leader like KCP&L and expand our portfolio of renewable energy projects.”
Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. is especially interested in projects that use solar, wind and other non-traditional energy sources. “This relationship, working with an industry leader of the caliber of KCP&L, will help us meet our goals and empower our community and economy” says Mr. Okafor. Collaboration between suppliers and KCP&L does not end upon completion of the program, “When a supplier graduates from our program they go into our light source Alumni program, they are no longer mentored by an executive of the company. But, they can call the supplier diversity manager, the procurement advocate or the executive any time they like after the program,” adds Ms. Coyazo.
Success stories like that of Alpha Energy and Electric, Inc. serve as a great source of happiness and pride for Ms. Coyazo and other members of the KCP&L team. “I am proud to be able to assist diverse suppliers daily and it makes me feel good when I go home at night knowing that I helped a supplier by introducing them to someone inside or outside our company and hopefully making a difference for them,” says Ms. Coyazo. “I am very proud of our procurement team, and several procurement advocates have received awards from the Mid-America Minority Supplier Development Council (MAMSDC) for their work with diverse suppliers.”
Thanks to the Light Source program and other inclusion initiatives, KCP&L has exceeded its diverse spend financial goals in each of the last three years and become a prime example of a successful supplier diversity program. The future looks very bright for KCP&L and the businesses involved in its supplier diversity initiatives.