Special Corporate Feature

Powering a Green Future at the New York Power Authority with Diverse Suppliers

NYPA is expanding its role in building renewables and to succeed innovative suppliers who think outside the box are needed. Enter small and diverse suppliers who want to grow their businesses as they contribute to the clean energy economy in New York and beyond.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is the largest state power organization in the U.S. and a leader in promoting economic development, energy efficiency, and clean energy technologies. The Authority is well positioned to further advance environmental and economic justice in New York by including diverse and local businesses in its efforts to achieve the goals outlined in its VISION2030 strategic plan. The Power Authority's supplier diversity team helps create opportunities for minority, women, and service-disabled veteran-owned and small businesses to participate in NYPA projects. The team is led by Supplier Diversity Director William Choi, who brings a sense of excitement and refreshed vision to the new opportunities for small and diverse suppliers to work with the organization.

Preparing for the Present and Future

When talking about NYPA and its Supplier Diversity program, Choi's language reflects his profound belief that diverse suppliers are essential to NYPA's ability to innovate and meet long-term renewable energy goals. Choi also has short-term goals: to work with and engage the community of small and diverse businesses that may need to familiarize themselves with the potential and current opportunities with NYPA.

"My short-term goal," he says, "is to educate as many small and diverse suppliers as possible and to get them excited about NYPA's current and upcoming projects. We aim to educate firms about NYPA's role in New York State, its energy transformation, and how the supplier diversity team can provide those goals and support suppliers interested in joining this critical industry."

Choi assumed his role in 2022, bringing his experience in government procurement services for the nation's largest municipality, New York City, to acquire a wide range of goods and services through various acquisition strategies and supplier diversity program management at the nation's largest public urban university, the City University of New York, to his position at NYPA. He has driven millions of dollars of contract opportunities to minority and women-owned businesses and developed a unique mentor-protege program format used as a model for several universities across America. From this perspective, Choi has set a personal goal of increasing prime contracts to diverse-owned firms and identifying suppliers ready to grow their businesses by taking ownership of projects more substantially at NYPA.

"We must be ready to seize the opportunity now instead of tomorrow. Let’s shift the paradigm together. Diverse and small business owners are interested but need access and knowledge to become involved," Choi says. He says that by educating suppliers to boost their interest in doing business with the NYPA and ensure that diverse suppliers have a "seat at the table" as NYPA develops new renewable energy projects rather than after the projects have moved beyond concept and into the project delivery phase is critical. This commitment to growth and success for small and diverse suppliers is a testament to NYPA's dedication to economic development and supplier diversity.

Delivering What Small and Diverse Suppliers Need for Success

Choi's primary objective is to make the Power Authority's Supplier Diversity program works for qualified small and diverse suppliers. He continually ponders the challenges to participation that may still exist and how to overcome them and the status quo. He believes that supplier diversity efforts should happen at every utility so that everyone can collaborate and drive the conversation to regional strategies that best fit small and diverse businesses.

"Is it the way we package information or the way we talk to suppliers? What is the supplier's perspective on how we can be good collaborators? What can we do better? We must understand both sides and take the time to learn if NYPA is a good customer for each eligible supplier. It’s our responsibility to ensure that our supplier community understands our regulations, needs, and goals. However, it is also incumbent on the suppliers to do their homework. “Education is a life-long journey; everyone can benefit together if we take time to understand each other, our strengths, and our goals. It takes effort on both sides," says Choi.

NYPA currently offers three business development programs to support the utility industry. One is focused on capacity building for small and local businesses, trying to better understand government contracts and how to pick suitable projects to enter the market. The second program is geared toward medium-sized suppliers who have been in business and need financial empowerment education to qualify for surety bonds for NYPA or other government construction contracts. The third program is for more mature companies trying to develop a more competitive edge. They participate in a one-to-one mentorship program to hone specific skills to achieve the next level of success. Once small and diverse businesses are trained, Choi and his team regularly follow up to determine if they have the necessary tools for success to compete and win on NYPA projects.

A Focus on Delivering Value Locally and Across the State

NYPA utilizes the SAP Ariba platform as a robust tool for efficient and transparent communication with potential and existing suppliers. This platform not only facilitates direct communication between NYPA and suppliers but also communicates with NYPA's departments and partners, informing them about the businesses that will be project suppliers. The focus is on delivering value. "At the end of the day, lower costs don't always equate to better products or services," says Choi.

Choi is most proud of his success when program participants compete and win on projects. As Choi reports, "NYPA's role as a good community member is to provide access and educate new suppliers. When they win, we all win. So far, we have more than 130 business owners who have completed the programs and will soon start the third iteration of the programs. I am proud we are training suppliers that may not have had access to this training or education journey before."

NYPA's business development programs are designed to increase the chances of suppliers becoming part of future NYPA contracts and acting as suppliers for other utility projects across the state. These projects can range from renewable energy installations to infrastructure development and maintenance. From this perspective, NYPA's business development programs contribute significantly to statewide economic development.

The Supplier Diversity team frequently collaborates with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) teams to ensure small and diverse businesses are aware of what ESG means and their role in supporting NYPA's VISION2030 goals. Choi welcomes input from his colleagues in the diversity and ESG space. He firmly believes that through a DEI and ESG focus NYPA "has a commitment to build a brighter New York for all. Our goals are synonymous and mutually beneficial as we intentionally support an equitable society that creates opportunities for all." This collaborative approach ensures that all stakeholders, including small and diverse businesses, feel included and part of the process.

Beyond Surveys to Have a Conversation

Small and diverse suppliers can still face many barriers to growth, and working with government entities can be particularly challenging due to strict, complex, and hard-to-understand requirements. "We go beyond surveys and develop a more one-on-one connection with suppliers so they know they can contact us for assistance at any time. Suppliers have the opportunity to play a key role in developing and completing transformational clean energy projects, so they need to be part of early conversations," says Choi. This personal connection and support is a crucial part of NYPA's Supplier Diversity program, making suppliers feel valued and integral to NYPA's operations.

NYPA has many exciting opportunities coming up and Choi wants to ensure interested suppliers have the tools and resources to participate in upcoming contracts. He sees some of his most important leadership responsibilities as being someone who supports diverse and smaller suppliers and helps them achieve their business goals by including them in NYPA projects. However, he has a broader perspective: "I am excited to see how diverse companies will play a key role in our state’s and America's future by participating in different renewable projects here in New York and across the country." With people like Choi working with small and diverse suppliers, his vision of diversity and inclusion in the clean energy economy will undoubtedly come true.