Momentum Within Lee County’s Industry Business Retention and Expansion

May 06, 2024 | Written by: Campbell Wheby

COTY Earth Day birdhouse painting

The beginning of 2024 has been a bustling period for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA). Our efforts continue to expand within the existing Industry Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) realm, catering to the diverse needs of our area’s industries and small businesses alike. While it’s challenging to include all our endeavors within a single article, SAGA is eager to highlight the activities and achievements that reflect our mission of expanding and diversifying the economic base of Sanford and Lee County by supporting our existing businesses.

The momentum in Lee County’s industrial sector is evident, starting with the exciting announcement of Kyowa Kirin’s selection of a manufacturing site in Sanford, situated off Hawkins Avenue. With Kyowa Kirin’s decision to locate in our community, SAGA remains committed to collaborating with the company and our partners throughout the facility’s construction phase, start-up process, and beyond, anticipating the opportunities and successes it will bring. As the inaugural tenant of the Helix Innovation Industrial Park, Kyowa Kirin’s presence is poised to exemplify innovation in manufacturing, serving as an attractant for future companies and talent. Meanwhile, many of our existing larger employers are actively seeking to fill positions, prompting SAGA to explore new avenues to engage potential employees. In line with this, SAGA’s Education Committee is diligently planning a job and services fair, fostering partnerships with local industries and Central Carolina Community College to host an event that offers a unique edge.

Recognizing the significance of nurturing talent within our community, as SAGA’s BRE manager, I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion at Davison’s Steaks in Sanford for Campbell University, featuring recent alumni from Campbell’s School of Engineering alongside their current employers in Lee County. Senior coworkers from their respective sites of Mertek Solutions, Caterpillar, and Pfizer sat on the panel with the alums as a dozen Campbell engineering students sat in the audience. This event provided an invaluable platform for students to interact with industry professionals and gain insights into the manufacturing ecosystem unique to Lee County. Representatives from Kyowa Kirin and Pentair further enriched the conversation, showcasing a collaborative spirit among employers and educational institutions in our region. In April, SAGA held its Industry Leader’s Breakfast, inviting site leaders to a presentation on artificial intelligence technology and research for applications in manufacturing by Dr. Boyuan Chen of Duke University. His prediction of the next wave of AI that will engage with humans as a co-creator for innovation and problem-solving was intriguing.

While attracting talent remains an ongoing challenge for companies everywhere, retaining it is equally crucial. Companies have been compelled to reimagine their programs and employee incentives to align with evolving employee expectations. On Earth Day, April 22nd, SAGA collaborated with local partners in Lee County to engage employees at COTY INC. in activities promoting environmental consciousness. Representatives from SAGA, Lee County Agriculture Extension, and Lee County Parks and Recreation came together to support activities such as painting birdhouses, highlighting the importance of backyard birds, and planting trees at the entrance of the COTY site.

The dedicated activities and collaborations undertaken by SAGA underscore our unwavering commitment to fostering economic growth and vitality. Through strategic partnerships, innovative initiatives, and a steadfast dedication to supporting our local businesses, SAGA remains poised to drive continued prosperity and opportunity for the benefit of our entire community.

Crystal Gaddy, Business Retention and Expansion Manager