FOLEY — A small business in south Alabama is making waves nationwide. Vanguard Pacific, a woman-owned and service-disabled veterans construction business, was started by former U.S. Navy Lt. Sydney Cody of Foley.

The company was formed in 2016 and now employs around 28 people. The powerhouse CEO can run her business lean and also focus heavily on every detail of every job.

Although her business is very successful, Cody said she is committed to keeping it small and giving back.

"Being a small business has its advantages and as far as I'm concerned, I have no desire to make my business anything other than small," Cody told 1819 News. "We will always strategically make sure that we are under that threshold."

Cody was born and raised in south Alabama but left for 15 years for school and the Navy. While in the Civil Engineer Corps, she was deployed to Africa as a Seabee in the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion. There she led a detachment of 120 to "win the hearts and minds" of people through the Horn of Africa and Kenya. The detachment performed rudimentary construction throughout those areas.

When she returned home after being honorably discharged, Cody said she knew she wanted to open shop and stay in her hometown.

Vanguard Pacific offers construction and renovation, engineering and analytics and disaster preparedness and relief services. The company has completed many jobs, big and small, ranging from $50,000 in repairs to a nearly $5 million building.

"We've done firefighter training facilities for the Air Force," Cody added. "There was an old one there and we demolished it. We even demolished the foundation and built a brand new one."

The company also completed repairs at Tyndall Air Force Base after Hurricane Michael and has done runway repairs at Fort Carson in Colorado, as well as airstrip striping across the nation.

Vanguard Pacific also won the facilities engineering design and inspection Services (FEDIS) II contract to provide architect and engineering design services at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. However, that project is on hold pending legal matters.

"We are everywhere. We did that because initially, I didn't get the luxury of choosing where I could go, so I just took all I could get and just did everything," Cody said.

As a hands-on CEO, Cody is very active in her business and is a "boots-on-the-ground" leader. She said it is important for her to hire carefully because she wants to keep the people she has and wants to create a healthy working environment for everyone.

"We hire people for the long run," she explained. "And so, there is always pressure on me to make sure we're bringing in enough work to support everyone we have. It's pressure and I don't take it lightly. I have to do that. This business is my baby."

After years of experience working with the government and handling contracts both in the military and in civilian life, Cody realized she had a leg up in the industry and getting her business started. That's why she is now helping others get their feet off the ground and turn their own dreams into reality. She volunteers her time mentoring new business owners who want to get into federal business matters.

"It just dawned on me that I have the luxury of having all of this knowledge and I should at least share it to at least help other guys have a good chance and can be set up to where they can do it and be successful," she said.

Because of the impact, the company has had and because of its CEO's desire to help others, Vanguard Pacific recently won the Alabama Small Business's Alabama Veteran-Owned Small Business of the Year.

Cody hopes to focus more on local jobs to continue building the future in the southern region.

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