By Shelley Phillips Kimel, Knoxville Business Journal
Posted July 7, 2014 at 4 a.m.
Read full article below or at knoxnews.com
As U.S. military operations in Afghanistan draw to a close, Maryville-based Vanquish Worldwide is shifting gears to domestic opportunities and expanding into new lines of business.
Vanquish has translated its experience moving fuel, equipment and supplies for coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan into a domestic trucking division. The company is also expanding into vocational and career training services through the acquisition of two Colorado-based firms.
To give the company more room to grow, Vanquish opened in June a 17,000-squarefoot headquarters in Maryville.
Eric Barton, a 39-year-old Marine veteran who founded Vanquish in 2007, hopes the diversification will insulate the company from the ups and downs of government contracting.
Growth at home, however, won’t be at the expense of the company’s original operations, he adds. Several recent contracts will keep Vanquish in Afghanistan in the foreseeable future.
“Even after the majority of the troops withdraw, we’ll still be performing retrograde services. Even the sustaining forces and the Afghan government will require bullets,Band-aids and food,” he says.
A relationship with global delivery giant FedEx, however, is fueling Vanguish’s domestic trucking operation, as well as recently inked deals with Denso and Rubbermaid, both of which operate in Blount County.
The company operates about 34 percent of the Nashville pickup and delivery market for the FedEx terminal there, delivering about 1.2 million packages. It invoices $1.4 million with FedEx annually for the operation. Barton would like to do the same with FedEx’s Knoxville routes, which he plans to acquire this summer.
Vanquish also began in February providing FedEx line haul services, delivering loads between terminals, prompting Barton’s confidence that the company can garner $10 million in FedEx revenue for 2015. Currently Vanquish carries excess orders FedEx’s own drivers cannot fulfill, but is working toward its own dedicated routes. “That’s really where the growth and sustainability is for us,” said Barton.
Barton is expanding Vanquish’s capabilities to qualify for that opportunity and others organically and through acquisitions.
A $5.6 million deal to acquire Nashville-based PAC Trucking, with 23 trucks, is expected to close in August.
Finding qualified drivers — an industry-wide challenge — is more difficult for Vanquish because of its defense contracts.
With the acquisition of Colorado-based Front Range Training and Consulting and its sister company Peak Technical Institute, Vanquish is looking to create its own solution.
“Peak Technical Institute is really a core growth business of ours,” Barton says. “Government contracting can have its ups and downs with markets and budgets, but people need to be trained. As the economy is coming back, manufacturing is moving back into the states, things are being moved, people need to be trained.”
Peak, which provides training primarily to off-road delivery drivers from Colorado’s oil fields, earlier this year added a commercial driver curriculum and is awaiting licensing by the state.
Other Peak programs include training for unexploded ordnance technicians, hazardous waste operations, emergency response, and oil and gas safety awareness. Peak is also launching programs in protocol and professional household management.
Front Range’s core offering is law enforcement training and its programs have been used by police forces from Chicago to Los Angeles. The company will soon train SWAT teams in Maryville and Blount County.
The new ventures won’t eclipse overseas services in the near future.
Barton estimates $9 million of the company’s $12.5 million first quarter revenue came from overseas.
The company continues to deliver materials within Afghanistan, and recently reopened an Iraq office after a two-year hiatus, he adds.
“I guess every person has to decide what makes them tick, and for me it’s being around different people, different challenges, and so the companies, — as diverse as they may seem, they have a common vision — that’s delivering excellence,” Barton says. “In transitioning into the civilian market, we do the same things here that made us successful over there — have the best equipment, the best-trained people and team that’s passionate about the job we’re doing.”
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