For more than a century, Duke Energy has provided power to the people of North Carolina, and today the company makes affordable energy available to 3.4 million retail customers in our state, accounting for more than 7 million people in all. With this long history and with more than 25,000 current and past employees making their home here, the Charlotte-based company truly is as much a part of the fabric of North Carolina as barrier islands and barbecue.
It’s not surprising, then, that with the company’s announcement of its “Hire North Carolina” program, Duke Energy is reaffirming its ties to North Carolina by pledging to expand the network of locally owned contractors it depends on for major construction, extension, and repair projects across the state. And in step with the company’s ongoing commitment to diversity, Duke remains focused on recruiting women- and minority-owned businesses for inclusion in this new pool of in-state talent.
Speaking to NC Chamber staff, Melody Birmingham, Duke’s senior vice president of supply chain and chief procurement officer, emphasized that this focus is nothing new for the company; rather, it’s a natural continuation of Duke’s longstanding commitment to support localized, diverse talent pipelines wherever it operates. As Melody explained, she leads a team devoted to recruiting the very kinds of businesses “Hire North Carolina” will be geared to support when it takes effect July 1st. She views the new program – which will require Duke to make annual reports to the North Carolina Utilities Commission on the progress of its in-state hiring efforts – as adding a layer of transparency on top of these goals.
“At Duke Energy, we take pride in helping support the growth and vitality of our state. But we know that we are only as successful as the communities we serve,” Melody told our team, adding, “Hire NC will help further connect us with our communities and provide local and diverse companies more opportunities to partner with Duke Energy on high-value work across the state.”
Senior Vice President, Supply Chain and Chief Procurement Officer,
In North Carolina in 2019, utilities under the Duke Energy umbrella – including Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, and Piedmont Natural Gas – spent more than $1.7 billion with in-state suppliers and more than $360 million with diverse North Carolina businesses. To build on these investments, Duke Energy plans to provide the “Hire North Carolina” list to prime contractors involved in infrastructure projects that exceed $700,000 in cost, ensuring these large projects generate the optimal amount of economic impact for the state. The company will promote these connections through a number of channels, including its Supplier Diversity web portal and Power Advocate supplier service as well as at outreach events across North Carolina communities (which are trending virtual in a COVID-19 world).
The “Hire North Carolina” program will also involve outreach across North Carolina’s universities, community colleges, and trade schools to educate students about the exciting career and life opportunities available in the fast-changing energy industry. Duke Energy is also focused on connecting with students at North Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In recent decades, programs at HBCUs have helped more black students graduate with STEM-based degrees, which are often an important prerequisite for jobs in the energy sector. Through “Hire North Carolina,” Duke Energy is looking to build on this vital momentum.
After more than a century of service to our state, it’s no surprise to see that Duke Energy is still finding new ways to empower North Carolinians to succeed through programs like “Hire North Carolina.” Here at the Chamber, we know that supporting diversity in our workplaces is vital to our continued success as a state. The painful instances of systemic racism that have forced our nation to confront how far we still must go to achieve racial equity have only served to highlight that importance in recent weeks.
The business community alone will not get us where we need to go, of course. Our offices, our workplaces, and our job sites can, however, all make vital settings for the conversations and actions that will be needed to move the needle forward on diversity. As part of that larger dialogue, a single program, even one as ambitious as “Hire North Carolina,” might seem like only a small step in the right direction. But with more companies like Duke Energy committed to this larger goal, those small steps, all added up, are exactly what it’s going to take to get us there.
To find out more about the “Hire North Carolina” program, email HireNC@duke-energy.com.
Behind each business in North Carolina are the ideas, partnerships and people that fuel our state’s success. Behind each business is a story and a vision for the future. As the voice for business, the NC Chamber is committed to telling these stories and highlighting the organizations and people that keep our state moving forward. Behind the Business is a series of profiles featuring NC Chamber Cornerstone members doing great work in North Carolina. Interested in being featured? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.