Sheila Brooks, moderator, William Von Hoene, senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer, Exelon; Bridget Reidy, senior vice president and chief supply officer, Exelon; Emmett Vaughn, director of Diverse Business Empowerment, Exelon; and Calvin Butler Jr., CEO, BGE. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

More than 150 minority business owners serving Washington, D.C. residents had details of the proposed merger of Chicago-based energy company Exelon and parent company of D.C.-based utility Pepco shared with them on Oct. 7, at the Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square in Northwest. The forum was co-hosted by The President’s Roundtable and Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council.

The $6.8 billion merger consists of Exelon’s 3 utilities – BGE, ComEd and PECO – and Pepco Holdings Inc.’s (PHI) 3 utilities – Atlantic City Electric, Delmarva Power and Pepco, which will create a leading mid-Atlantic electric and gas utility.  Since the announcement that the two companies signed a definitive agreement in April, skepticism has surfaced about the benefits of the merger to minority-owned businesses. “Any time businesses come together, you always worry about a shrink in the market,” Larry McKenney, CEO of Laurel Radiology Services, told the AFRO during the event.

The forum’s message, however, enforced the corporations’ commitment to the inclusion of varied suppliers. “Diversity is a core value of PHI,” said Reginald McCauley, director supply of chain at PHI during his opening statement. “We have the ability to make sure that opportunities for diversity happen.”

In 2013, Exelon spent $906 million with certified diverse suppliers and PHI’s Pepco utility spent $80.1 million on diverse supplier procurement, yearly increases for both companies.

During the event, minority entrepreneurs benefited from face-to-face access to Exelon and PHI leaders as opposed to less intimate dialogue via phone and internet that have become popular in this age. “It’s a part of business relationships that are being lost,” said McKenney.

The corporations’ leaders were able to share information about approaches to working with diverse businesses in the D.C. metropolitan area. “We are challenging , but everyone perceives their business as better because we challenge them,” Emmet Vaughn, director of diverse business empowerment at Exelon.

Not only will vendors and the communities they serve benefit from partnering, but the Exelon and PHI expect the same rewards. “The reason that this is important to us is because we are better when we bring people to the table with different perspectives and vantage points,” said William Von Hoene, senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Exelon during a panel discussion that included senior leaders at Exelon. “Our obligation is to do our business in the best way possible.”

The panel also dove into strategies for how to successfully compete for contracts and partner with the companies, as well as answered questions related to vendor promotions, providing support to the merger and expectations related specifically to District businesses.

The merger is expected to be completed in the second or third quarter of 2015 and the corporations will continue to actively engage with minority businesses, said Melissa Sherrod, vice president of corporate affairs at Exelon, “If we haven’t knocked on your door yet, we’re coming.”