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Sempra Energy, Greenlining Institute Celebrate Diversity with Reception

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By Bobby Chore

A joint effort by Sempra Energy Utilities and the Greenlining Institute led to an idea of acknowledging the growth of diversity in each workplace and the communities these organizations serve.

Debra Reed, president and CEO of southern California's Gas Company and San Diego Gas and Electric - both utilities under Sempra Energy - led the way at the Gas Company Tower, as several guests, community leaders and small business owners gathered for a reception at the Gas Company Tower in Los Angeles on Jan. 24. The crowded event celebrated the utility company's commitment to diversity.

"It started with a statement of commitment to diversity," Reed said. "We thought the best way for the partnership to show a working relationship was to have this."

Sempra Energy companies spent $251 million with women, minority, service-disabled and veteran-owned businesses.

"This is value," Reed said. "By having a much more diversified base, we are buying at lower costs and developing more competition. It's not just writing a check, it's being a part of communities."

Reed, along with Robert L. Gnaizda, policy director and general counsel of the Greenlining Institute, emphasized the importance of developing diversity throughout the company's hiring procedures and business decisions.

(l-r): Robert Visconti, Inland Empire Gas Co Regional Public Affairs Mgr; Debra Reed, Pres & CEO The Gas Co & San Diego Gas & Electric; Rialto Councilmember Deborah Robertson; Mitch Mitchell, Vice Pres External Affairs Gas Co & SDG&E; Barbara McGee, Rialto City Clerk; Lea Petersen, Gas Co Public Affairs Mgr.

The Greenlining Institute is a multi-ethnic public policy organization that strives to raise low-income and minority involvement in major civic practices and policy-making. Gnaizda shortly explained the reasoning behind the institute's partnership with Sempra Energy.

"Sempra convinced us that we wanted to be the leaders of corporate responsibility," Gnaizda said. "This is going to strengthen minority businesses."

Gnaizda added that the partnership was also inspired by the efforts of the Black Business Association, whose president, Earl "Skip" Cooper, II, was present to address the audience.

"The solution to our economic crisis in America is supplying small and minority businesses," Cooper said.

Last year, 25 percent of Sempra Energy's business suppliers were minority businesses. In fact, 61 percent of individuals hired by the company are minorities. 51 percent of the Sempra Energy workforce is African-American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American, while 30 percent of Sempra Energy's managers are minorities.

One of them is Mitch Mitchell, senior vice-president of external affairs at southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas and Electric. Mitchell spoke of Sempra Energy's involvement in minority businesses.

"This is the beauty of our operation," Mitchell said. "We have the opportunity to bring diverse enterprises not only to make money, but make them stronger. The more successful these [minority-owned] businesses are helps build state economies"

"If you don't provide them with the conduit to think strategically, then you are hurting your economic future."

While a small Washington Prep High School band played jazz throughout the evening, community leaders like Rialto mayor Deborah Robertson were at the reception and cheerily socialized with Reed and other major officers, as diversity was the sole factor behind the event's success, and a collective understanding of diversity being the final result.

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