At the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Sixth Annual Supplier Diversity Summit on Tuesday, nearly 60 small businesses learned more about TVA’s contracting process and how to do business with the federally owned utility.

And there is plenty of business to be had with TVA, which spent more than $2.7 billion last fiscal year. For the second consecutive year, TVA spent more than $1 billion of that with small businesses, and for the third consecutive year, it spent more than $375 million with small and diverse businesses.

The Supplier Diversity Summits are held to increase those small and diverse businesses’ contracting opportunities with TVA.

“TVA is committed to receiving products and services from a supplier base that is competitive, diverse and reflective of the region,” said TVA board chairman Richard Howorth, a former two-term mayor of Oxford and founder and owner of Square Books. “TVA recognizes that local, small and diverse businesses not only bring great value to the TVA, but they play an important part in creating jobs and opportunities in the communities in the valley.”

Howorth said that’s why TVA adopted a formal policy of supplier diversity that acknowledges the role of businesses that are small, valley-based, minority owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned and located in historically underutilized areas.

Howorth likened TVA’s outreach to diverse suppliers to reading a book.

“Part of the value of reading is expanding your mind, to explore regions and ideas that aren’t familiar to you, to learn about people you might not otherwise encounter in everyday life” he said. “TVA cannot do business with one type of business owner or its success would be limited, just as my bookstore would not survive with shelves filled with one author or one book. Nor would my business survive with limited number or types of vendors … just as diversity is important to successful business, working with a diverse set of suppliers is imperative for TVA to live out its mission to make the quality of life better for the people in the Tennessee Valley.”

At the event Tuesday, two suppliers were recognized by TVA for their contributions in 2017. SBC Instrument & Control Inc. of Corinth received TVA’s Diverse Supplier of the Year award, and AECOM was recognized as TVA’s Prime Supplier of the Year. In addition, TVA Senior Contracts Manager Ashley Floyd was recognized with the 2017 Supplier Diversity Champion Award.

“We do have goals each year we try to meet in supplier diversity,” said TVA Supply Chain Vice President Rebecca Tolene. “But really, each day it’s about finding the best deal for TVA and for the supplier we’re working with.”

Tolene said costs are critical in contracting suppliers, but said what excites TVA most about finding diverse suppliers is “their passion about the work, their unique perspectives on our work. We find more of our diverse suppliers bringing new perspectives. They’re hungry for that work and they want to get in the door, not only to build their work with TVA, but also their work for other companies. We love being the lever there that really gets them rolling in business.”

For more information about TVA’s Supplier Diversity programs, visit tva.gov .