The Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA) held its seventh Annual Meeting on Sept. 30 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center. During the event, SAGA provided Economic Development Awards to recognize companies and an individual for their contribution to the growth of Sanford-Lee County.

As important and exciting as new project announcements are, SAGA takes great pride in recognizing those legacy employers that have been in our community, providing jobs and paychecks and tax base for many, many years. This year’s honoree for large industry of the year is Coty.

Coty has a long and illustrious history in its market sector. Founded in 1904 by a wealthy French entrepreneur who had a knack for marketing and a love for the fragrance of exotic flower oils, this rapidly growing company opened its first US location in New York City in 1922, solidifying its position as a global market leader over the next five decades before moving its ever-expanding North American manufacturing operations from New York to Sanford in 1971.

Fifty years ago, Coty began construction on a facility which would eventually undergo multiple expansions and consistently rank as one of Lee County’s largest employers. In 1974, the site was expanded to provide more space for receiving and distribution; and with such a strategic mid-Atlantic location, the company added a state of the art 461,000 square foot Distribution Center in 1991.

In addition to growth on the distribution side, the past thirty years has brought multiple expansions on the manufacturing side, as Coty added new product lines to their already formidable cosmetics, beauty and fragrance offerings. In 2005, they acquired Unilever’s fragrance business. 2007 brought the integration of Prestige Fragrance, followed by Sally Hansen in 2010 and Philosophy in 2016.

Coty manufactures most of the Sally Hansen and OPI nail brands right here in Sanford, along with Philosophy and CoverGirl fragrances and skincare products. “We make 650,000 bottles of nail polish per day in Sanford” commented Enric Prat Codina during the Annual Meeting “It’s a good thing we all have 20 nails for all that polish.” Codina is Coty’s Sanford Plant Manager.

We honored Coty not only because they provide jobs for 800 people at their facility here, but they also have consistently been involved as a corporate citizen in support of our community. For decades, this company and its employees have supported local organizations such as the United Way of Lee County, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central North Carolina, and the Christians United Outreach Center.

When devastating tornadoes struck Sanford in the spring of 2011, Coty donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to local relief agencies, and provided thousands more in direct assistance to employees’ whose families were impacted by the storm.

Coty deserves a special shout out for their remarkable pivot last year to manufacturing much-needed hand sanitizer, and their generous donations of that product to a number of community agencies and first responders during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congratulations to Coty for being awarded this year’s large industry of the year by the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.