NATALIA PEREZ, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
As this year’s recipient of the Chattanooga Chamber’s Diversity & Inclusion Ally award, Chattanooga Gas is intentional with its efforts to be an employer that fosters a diverse and inclusive workplace that fuels innovation. A subsidiary of Southern Company Gas, the company delivers clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas to about 68,000 customers in Hamilton and Bradley counties.
Investing in a diverse workforce has been a successful business strategy for Chattanooga Gas, allowing the company to keep up with economic expansion in the Chattanooga region. Access to natural gas has helped entice significant large employers to the area, helping to generate over $2.5 billion in local investment, according to the Consumer Energy Alliance.
Why Chattanooga Gas is Committed to Diversity and Inclusion
Jesse Killings, senior vice president of customer operations, safety and training for Southern Company Gas, has been with the company for 28 years and he speaks highly of the company’s culture and commitment to diversity.
“We take deliberate steps to make sure our workforce is reflective of the diversity seen in our communities,” Killings says. “We call it a business imperative. We strive to bring people with different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and ideas together, because that allows us to create a work environment where all employees feel welcomed, respected and engaged with the company. Our tremendous mix of diverse talent enables us to drive innovation throughout our operations, and consequently, allows us to better serve the community.”
By providing an inclusive work environment, Chattanooga Gas delivers the sustainable results, performance and innovation that it takes to be a true partner of the community. Not only is the team committed to improving diversity efforts internally, but also across the supply chain. A supplier diversity program helps procure goods and services through a network of business partners, and as a result, about a third of the company’s suppliers are minority-, women- or veteran-owned businesses. Overall, Chattanooga Gas invests $14 million in Tennessee-based diverse companies.
Why Chattanooga Gas is a Great Place to Work
The Chattanooga Gas culture values the whole person and believes people perform at their best when they’re able to bring their whole selves to work. The company has created an environment where employees feel valued and respected, which empowers them to deliver superior customer service. Employee resource groups, LEAD Council (Leadership, Empowerment, Acceptance and Diversity) and Talent Acquisition teams work together to encourage professional development by posting open positions internally and remove implicit bias. It all makes Chattanooga Gas a great place to work.
When asked why he’s stayed at the company for as long as he has, Killings says that it’s largely because in all his years there, he’s never been asked to violate his personal values and morals.
“There have always been opportunities for the company to do the right thing and want to do the right thing. We haven’t always gotten everything right, but the heart of this company always finds an opportunity to make it better. The combination of these virtues is what’s kept me firmly planted here.”
Killings is proud of the camaraderie that exists among employees and employee resource groups, of being part of an infrastructure that's propelled the regional economy forward and providing the community with safe, clean and reliable energy.
“We have the opportunity to provide our community with not just natural gas, but hot meals for their children and hot water for families to bathe in. We provide the heat that's necessary for people to survive in the winter.”
Serving the Community through Crisis
Gas company employees are essential workers, and Chattanooga Gas employees have always been available for customer needs and emergencies.
“We believe that managing critical infrastructure means that we have to be there for our communities,” Killings says. “So, although we never stopped working when the pandemic hit, we did adopt new protocols around our personal protective equipment and social distancing. It's our priority that our employees and customers stay safe, especially since our job may require us to enter customer homes.”
The company also supported customers facing financial hardships as a result of the pandemic, with alternative payment and energy aid programs, credit counseling and crisis assistance services, including a small business resource center.