'Safety, Quality and Efficiency': Supplier Diversity Far More Than Tokenism

Mississippi’s Pilgrim Construction has a longstanding relationship with Enbridge
Dec 28, 2022 10:35 AM ET
Three construction workers smoothing a square of concrete
Pilgrim Construction, based in New Hebron, MS, offers services in pipeline construction and maintenance, integrity, meter and compression station construction, hydrostatic testing and anomaly remediation.

As Saige Pilgrim likes to say of her company: “We’ve been woman-owned since before it was cool.”

As a fifth-generation pipeliner and third-generation leader of New Hebron, Mississippi-based Pilgrim Construction, Saige believes diversity shouldn’t be a token checking of the box—safety and a stellar track record are primary drivers to securing contracts for the company’s pipeline integrity specialization.

“Our values are reflected in the work we do,” she says.

“Our house words at Pilgrim are safety, quality and efficiency; our safety scores show we live up to those words. We haven’t had a reportable incident since 2018, and we have worked over three million man-hours without incident.”

Founded in 1999 by Pilgrim’s father and mother, Brian and Felicia, and maternal grandmother Joy Evans, the company now operates in 27 states and has a longstanding relationship with Enbridge that predates our 2017 merger with Spectra Energy. It offers services in pipeline construction and maintenance, integrity, meter and compression station construction, hydrostatic testing and anomaly remediation.

Pilgrim Co.’s humble origins are rooted in family and the often-transient life of the pipeliner profession. Saige credits her mother Felicia, a nurse who in the 1980s spearheaded a tuberculosis grant still active in Mississippi today, for investing savings to start the company and put down community roots.

“My mother grew up like an army brat; when you are a pipeliner’s child, you move around a lot,” says Saige.

“When having children, she wanted to establish a home base and have my father closer to home . . . so she and my grandmother came up with the idea for Pilgrim Construction. My mother’s ambition really propelled us for about the first decade of operation.”

Performance standards a must

Woman-owned since its inception, Pilgrim’s status as a Woman Based Enterprise (WBE) was made official in 2019 through certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

This designation aligns with Enbridge’s Supplier Diversity Policy, which seeks to drive diversity and inclusion within the supply chain, providing an equal opportunity for qualified businesses on both sides of the border.

Reflecting Paige’s sentiments, the program is not tokenistic—above all, work standards and expectations are rigorous, safety and environmental performance paramount.

“Pilgrim performs well and has done so across a wide range of projects in our liquids and natural gas pipeline businesses,” says Aaron Madsen, U.S. construction manager with Enbridge’s Major Projects group.

John Yuran, U.S. construction coordinator with Enbridge’s liquids pipelines group, praises Pilgrim’s safety culture as “authentic” while noting the versatility and work ethic of its crews.

“Although they are a non-union company, when watching them execute you would think they are a union contractor most days. They have experienced crews dedicated for each discipline, which is generally a union perk. But these experienced and dedicated crews will also work other disciplines as needed, which is more standard for non-union contractors, so it’s as if we are getting the best of both worlds,” says John.

Therein exists the philosophy of the Supplier Diversity Program—the ability to offer opportunity while integrating diverse suppliers into the supply chain that meet the high standards crucial to operating the world’s most dynamic and complex pipeline network.