Business Profile | Melvin Williams

July 2016 View more

Melvin Williams, President of Nicor Gas, for Naperville MagazineNaperville based Nicor Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of AGL Resources, serves more than 2 million customers in a service territory that encompasses most of the northern third of Illinois. In May 2015, Naperville resident Melvin Williams began his role as president of the largest natural gas distribution company in Illinois. Williams is a champion for diversity and inclusion-related issues and passionate about charitable causes.

Tell us about some of your major achievements since being named President of Nicor Gas.

As president of Nicor Gas, it has been an honor and pleasure to lead the largest and lowest-cost natural gas provider in Illinois. The safety of our people, our pipeline, and the public is first and foremost our priority. This year, we’ve added safety as our number one shared value across the enterprise, further emphasizing the importance we place on safety in our organization.

An important part of our safety and reliability efforts includes the modernization of our infrastructure. This year, Nicor Gas successfully completed the first year of Investing in Illinois: A Nicor Gas System Improvement Initiative on-plan and on-time. The multi-year program allows Nicor Gas to improve the safety and reliability of its natural gas distribution system while bringing skilled construction jobs, new businesses and significant investments to the state.

In 2015, Nicor Gas became a founding member of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC) and works with member utility partners to drive improvement and advance the growth and utilization of diverse businesses in the state of Illinois. I am honored to serve as chairman of the board for IUBDC. Additionally, one of the areas that I am most proud of is our supplier diversity program. The company achieved a historical milestone in its business diversity efforts, increasing its overall diverse spend by $121 million since 2012. I’m extremely proud of the growth of our expanded partnerships with minority, women and veteran-owned businesses. Our results reflect our intentional efforts to advance, develop and create opportunities for diverse businesses. Increasing our spend further demonstrates that our commitment to business and organizational diversity is at the core of our corporate values.

You are active in the community and passionate about Children’s charities. Tell us about some of your community projects.

I actively support numerous community and youth organizations in Chicagoland and in my home state of Georgia and am passionate about charitable causes that make a positive impact in communities. I spent much of my childhood at the Boys and Girls Club in Savannah, where I was provided the opportunity at a young age to be included in a structured learning environment for the first time. That experience had a life-changing impact on me. I serve on the boards of directors for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, the Boys & Girls Club of Atlanta, and the AGL Resources Foundation, and I am a lifetime member of the Frank Callen Boys & Girls Club of Savannah.

Who do you admire as a business mentor or role model?

I’ve had the unique experience of being in the industry for 27 years, which has given me the opportunity to meet some great leaders. We sometimes define mentoring, sponsoring and coaching the same, but they are all very different. For me, those individuals who have influenced me the most personally and professionally—whether it was my parents or my teacher or a coach—all had one common thread. They saw something in me and invested in me because they believed in my success. So from a mentoring standpoint, those individuals really gave of themselves. They felt like it was their responsibility as a leader to invest in other leaders, and it was their responsibility to invest in someone who could continue to grow both personally and professionally. As a result of that, I’ve always felt that as a leader it is my primary responsibility to create opportunities to invest in other leaders and share perspectives with them that allow them to continue to grow both as individuals and as professionals. The thing I admired the most about individuals, no matter their experience or success, is their decision to invest in others. I’ve always admired leaders who focus on sharing their experiences and perspectives. That has really given me a level of accountability to ensure I am doing the same for others.

You relocated to Naperville from the South. What do you like best about living in Naperville?

Having grown up in the South, you always hear of Southern hospitality. With this being my first time living in the Midwest, I’ve truly been humbled by the receptiveness of the community and how this community has reached out and embraced my transition. It’s what I now describe as Midwestern hospitality and what that represents. That has probably been the most revealing for me. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to be involved with the civic, social and business community from the very first day that I transitioned here. It is not only rewarding, but truly refreshing to see how welcoming the community has been. I really miss Atlanta because of my friends and my family, but the energy, the experience of moving into a community where the civic and social engagement is much different than I have ever experienced both personally and professionally is refreshing, and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of the community.