SJR State

SJR State Press Release

On-site tour gives insight to SJR State business students

St. Johns River State College professor Summer Garrett says that while business students spend many semesters reading and discussing business practices as they prepare for careers in the commercial and private sectors, visiting an actual multi-million dollar company and conversing directly with its CEO is a powerful learning experience.

SJR State students enrolled in the International Business class got a first-hand look into the world of management, production, purchasing and exporting during their recent visit to Vac-Con, a local vacuum excavation and industrial cleaning equipment corporation. Garrett said students also gained a better understanding that companies conducting international sales can operate in rural areas such as Green Cove Springs. "Companies can be international in scope without owning facilities in other countries," Garrett said.

Vac-Con President Darrell LeSage and international sales coordinator Jan Chapman, devoted more than two hours to the students, giving a tour of the production facility and sharing success stories and challenges.

Garrett said the tour included observing the many aspects of production, including purchasing inputs (such as steel), manufacturing components in-house, customized painting of the trucks to meet client needs, and testing the finished product. Garrett said it was also important for students to understand how the company uses lean operations to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

"One example of minimizing costs and reducing use is by collecting rain water for the testing phase, which saves on the company's water bill," Garrett said. "Students also learned the importance of selecting appropriate shipping methods for delivering the finished product to the customer, both domestically and internationally."

Student Chris Parsons said the experience helped put the scale of an international business into perspective. "You think you realize how massive a scale a business runs on until you actually see it firsthand," Parsons said. "Everything from wastewater to shipping containers has been rigorously planned and revamped to allow for greater business."

The employee-owned company employs approximately 250 personnel at its single-production facility. Students on the tour met the second shift production team, where student Jacob Bradley observed the importance of the relationships between the president and employees.

"When we were walking through the facility, one thing I really admired was the cohesiveness of the workers and their relationships with the president; he knew them well and talked to them like they were friends. I think that is an important quality if you want things done right and well," Bradley said. The people you employ will work better if they're happy to be there, which it actually seemed they were."

Garrett said the additional knowledge the students gained was that an international business is founded on relationships. "Those relationships must be built on trust for the ventures to be successful," she said, adding, "It is also imperative to understand the culture and regulatory powers of other countries to be successful abroad."

A final reminder to students was that a successful international business does not necessarily have to be glamorous or famous. Student Jose Padilla-Alvarez said the visit taught him that, "Sometimes you don't have to be well-recognized to export. The only thing you need is a good product to sell," he said.

The opportunity to tour Vac-Con was made possible by connections through the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. Garrett said the tour was an invaluable experience for students. "I am confident that the students will take this learning experience with them for the rest of their lives."

SJR State offers International Business as a specialization within the Business Administration A.S. degree program. The College serves approximately 11,000 with campuses in Orange Park, Palatka and St. Augustine.

St. Johns River State College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of St. Johns River State College.


SJR State St. Augustine campus student Susan Arnold listens as Vac-Con President Darrell LeSage explains how product components are manufactured.

SJR State St. Augustine campus students Tyne Anderson and Dillon Cunningham learn an important international business detail - businesses are founded on relationships. From left, Vac-Con President Darrell LeSage, Anderson and Cunningham.

Student Gini Solano shares her excitement in the news that the above truck will make it to the customer in Canada on time. An unidentified Vac-Con employee looks on in the background.

Jan Chapman, Vac-Con Sales Coordinator-International, and student Jose Padilla-Alvarez.

Students Lauren Wilkinson, Sarah Carter, and Gini Solano (left to right) stop for a photo in the production facility.

Susan Kessler
SJR State Director of Public Relations and Publications
5001 St. Johns Avenue
Palatka, FL 32177
(386) 312-4020

college students
field trip students
business students
student at vaccon
students holding books