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Ashley Lacy Provides Insight on How to do Business with SMECO
Supplier Diversity Program
Ashley Lacy, Supplier Diversity Program Manager Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO)

MWMCA is proud of its executive profile series for providing fresh insight into area corporation supplier diversity professionals. In this issue we profile Ashley Lacy,   Supplier Diversity Program Manager for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO). Ms. Lacy, is another fine example of inclusion commitment SMECO is endeavoring to achieve. Please review her answers to questions we raised.

How did you find your way to SMECO and the position you are in today?

 

I was at PNC Bank in Pittsburgh on a growing team of Supplier Diversity and Procurement Professionals and looking to continue to grow in my career. I wanted to gain experience running a program and managing a budget, while continuing my passion of supporting, educating, and helping to develop diverse owned businesses. SMECO was a great next step in my career. Here, I’ve had the opportunity to educate the entire company on Supplier Diversity, its benefits, our Memorandum of Understanding with the Maryland PSC, and in many cases overcome the bias of diverse suppliers being too small or too expensive. I’ve been able to update board policies and procedures, manage our program’s budget, optimize it to save annually, integrate a new supplier registration and Tier 2 portal, build relationships with a number of local and national advocacy organizations such as MWMCA, and as a result, grow diversity spend to nearly 16% in 2017.

 

Please explain the difference between delivering services as a cooperative as opposed to a publicly traded company, as most public energy providers?

 

Co-ops are distinctly different from investor-owned utilities. SMECO is a cooperative, meaning that we are an independent, non-profit electric utility owned by the customer-members we serve. Customer-members elect the men and women who serve on our board, and we also issue capital credits to our customer-members. What are capital credits? They are the member’s share of the co-op’s margins, based on how much electricity the member purchased and the rate at which the account was billed. SMECO’s margins—revenue less expenses—are used as working capital for new construction and system improvements. When SMECO’s Board of Directors determines that a percentage of the capital credits can be distributed to members through a general refund, capital credits will be issued by check or credited to members’ electric bills.

 

With being customer-member owned, our priorities are reliability and keeping the rates low for our nearly 165K customer base across Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and the southern region of Prince George’s County.

 

How does SMECO assist diverse suppliers to succeed within your supply chain?

 

SMECO has developed an internal Supplier Development Program that consists of two parts. The first is an annual “How to do business with SMECO” event. Launched in 2017, this event provided the opportunity for suppliers to visit our facility, learn about us, and engage with senior leadership as well as our department managers and buyers.

 

The second part of our development initiative is to provide quality feedback to suppliers who’ve participated in our bid opportunities. We’ve held a number of one-on-one meetings with suppliers over the past year that have proved valuable for them as some have then gone on to win bid opportunities.

 

Please name the organizational groups that certify diverse suppliers that SMECO will consider as an index in working with and why just them?

 

SMECO does require third-party certification to capture suppliers as diverse, however, we do accept many state and local certifications, such as MDOT, in addition to national certification organizations such as NMSDC, WBENC and NGLCC.

SMECO is a corporate partner of the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council, the local NMSDC affiliate, as well as Women President’s Education Organization-DC, the local certifying affiliate for WBENC.

 

As a cooperative, we are also very active in local chambers as well as MWMCA to assist with making connections with new and current suppliers.

 

Please provide supply chain areas that you would like to improve inclusion in but seem to be tough in achieving?

 

SMECO has had difficulty finding diverse suppliers in areas that are more focused and critical to utility work. These are areas that we will always have a need for due to generally high barriers of entry. While we’ve had success finding quality diverse suppliers to supply transformers, utility poles, or substation equipment, it would be great to find a diverse supplier who has experience working on high voltage systems that can build substations and distribution centers or manage vegetation and keep our lines clear.

 

What are the supply chain areas that achieve the greatest inclusion?

 

We’ve been able to grow our diversity spend above the industry average to nearly 16% this past year due to successes we’ve had with diverse suppliers understanding how SMECO does business and focusing on providing the opportunities. Some recent successes include our new office products supplier, promotional products, IT services, safety equipment, catering, underground distribution and transformer distributor.

 

How does one engage with SMECO?

 

SMECO is a member of various advocacy organizations such as MWMCA to make connections and meet diverse suppliers. We ask all of our suppliers to register in our supplier portal smeco.starssmp.com. This portal is used internally to manage supplier information as opportunities and needs arise. When there are foreseeable needs, we’re happy to set up introductory meetings with the appropriate departments as well.

 

Questions and capabilities can also be sent to supplier.diversity@smeco.coop

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