FOLEY – Foley is the only Alabama city to have two companies win awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The SBA recognized five businesses across Alabama. Soilkit by AgriTech Corporation, owned by Christina Woerner McInnis, won Alabama Rural-Owned Small Business of the Year. Sydney Cody of Vanguard Pacific won Alabama Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year.
The Foley City Council recognized the two businesses Monday, April 17.
Mayor Ralph Hellmich said the fact that a city the size of Foley had two of the five awards shows the strength of the economy and community.
“This is an incredible fact to have two businesses in our small city when nobody else has this,” Hellmich said.
L.D.Ralph, SBA deputy district director, said businesses like the two recognized in Foley make a vital contribution to the community.
“We recognize critical contributions from small business owners and entrepreneurs that have contributed not just to the economy but also to the civic lives of the areas where they are located and have given back to the community,” Ralph said. “That’s what we’re going to be honoring here today are a couple of local area award winners for some of our small businesses.”
Yolanda “Yo” Johnson of the Alabama Small Business Development Center said small businesses provide most of the jobs in the state.
“When we have over 50% of all of our jobs coming from small businesses, it’s important that we recognize small businesses’ big impact on our economy and on your life in my life,” Johnson said. “So that’s the reason that we’re here today.”
Soilkit provides custom soil analysis to help homeowners determine the exact fertilizer needs of their lawns. McInnis said that while her family has been farming in Baldwin County for generations, Creating and developing a small business, particularly just as COVID struck, was a new challenge for her.
McInnis said Johnson’s assistance helped her keep the business going.
“Then COVID crashed and hit and I had Yo help and assist me to go from a family soil tests in the Woerner garden centers all the way to Lowes during when we were shelter in place,” she said.
Cody also said Johnson and the Small Business Development Center helped her business succeed. Vanguard Pacific is a government construction company with services ranging from renovation of occupied spaces, roofing painting, protective coatings and a disaster response team. Cody said that while she is a Navy veteran with experience in construction, she could not have navigated the complexities of working with the government without help.
“The SBA is really a lifeline,” Cody said. “But if your government is your customer is not only a lifeline, it’s a necessity. You can’t even navigate that program without the SBA support”
In addition to the two Foley companies receiving SBA awards, the Alabama Small Business Person of the Year is from Selma. The Alabama minority-owned business Small Business of the Year is Birmingham and the Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year is in Huntsville,