A Maryland-based utility company that has a program that will enhance contracting opportunities for minority businesses for large corporations is getting positive reviews

Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) has operated the Focus 25 program, which entails a strategic, small business development program to help educate businesses – particularly firms that are diversity-certified – about how to navigate large corporate processes. BGE has purchased $182 million in goods and services in recent years from diversity-certified suppliers and it has the strong backing of its President and CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr.

“Some years ago I decided it would be beneficial to partner with Wayne Frazier, of the Maryland Washington Minority Companies Association” Butler said, “to make a difference in our community.”

BGE is a subsidiary of Exelon, a national energy company,  the largest gas and electric utility in Maryland. The company provides services to more than 1.2 million electric customers and more than 650,000 natural gas consumers in central Maryland.

The electric company provides services to Baltimore City and all or part of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties while the gas component covers the previously mentioned jurisdictions plus Cecil and Frederick counties.

Butler’s goal is to have 25 percent of his company’s contracting work done by minority- and women-owned businesses by 2025, and he and Frazier have devised a strategy in order to accomplish that.

“Wayne and I discussed making a difference through mentorships,” Butler said. “Focus 25 was the result  and our focus has been using strategic measurement tools in order to drive a difference.”

Butler said that the program provides rigorous technical assistance, coaching and direct access to key BGE executives and project directors, committed to growing these critical supplier partnerships.

The program’s inaugural class consisted of 10 companies in 2013. The leaders of those companies were introduced to BGE senior management and commodities buyers who helped them complete the required business filings to continue in the program. Butler said the entrepreneurs were also introduced to large prime investors who encouraged them to produce greater, more aggressive results in their businesses.

“We utilized aggressive metrics and those results started speaking for themselves,” Butler said. “These suppliers now have multi-million dollar contracts because they were able to meet large companies outside of BGE and become community leaders by employing from within communities where they exist.”

Butler said that the program works with firms in the fields of public relations, legal, accounting and “not just construction.”

Baltimore’s P&J Contracting, an African-American firm known for its demolition expertise, has participated in Focus 25 and is reportedly seeing positive results in its bottom line.

Shreedhar Shah, who is the president of Shah & Associates located in Gaithersburg, Md., is a 2014 graduate of Focus 25 and has clients such as the City of Baltimore, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and PEPCO, a Mid-Atlantic utility company.

Shah has nothing but praise for Focus 25.

“They really get right into what it takes to do business with BGE,” Shah said. “We have a great relationship and this is not a handout. What they do is open up access and gives you a seat at their table.

“They don’t guarantee you anything,” he added, “but give you a chance to present yourself to the company and to offer your products and services.”

Shah said Focus 25 is unprecedented and unheard of in minority corporate contracting programs. He said that small and minority businesses often have a harder time contracting with large corporations than with public entities such as the city of Baltimore.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” Shah said. “Calvin Butler Jr. on down gets supplier diversity and the importance of doing business with local firms.”

Reporter Shantella Sherman contributed to this report