The 2010 BP oil spill was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. History. Oil spewed from the ocean floor for 87 days, turning the Gulf of Mexico’s surface black and killing thousands of fish.
Fortunately, a Lake County company played a role in the cleanup process. Vac-Tron Equipment, headquartered in Okahumpka, built 40 specialized vacuums that sucked oil from the water’s surface. The company also developed a vacuum designed to suck washed-up oil off beaches.
“It made us feel great that we could do our part to help out,” said Don Buckner, owner of the company. “But it’s not uncommon for the company to be involved in some type of emergency.”
Vac-Tron’s services were requested in the massive cleanup because the company has established itself as the country’s largest producer of industrial vacuum equipment. Its vacuum products, which range in size from 150 to 4,000 gallons, can suction things like dirt, tar and sludge. They can also uncover pipelines, phone lines and fiber optics without damaging any expensive or hazardous lines. That’s very important since an accidental utility strike can result in project delays and environmental contamination.
The company’s vacuums are distributed throughout the U.S., as well as Australia, New Zealand, South America and The Philippines.
Don started the company in 1997 with “himself, a cell phone, and an old pick-up truck.” It wasn’t long before Vac-Tron experienced unprecedented success. Within three years, Inc. Magazine named his company as the 13th-fastest growing company in the country. In 2000, the company achieved a record $22 million in sales, and Don was named as Florida’s Entrepreneur of the Year in a competition sponsored by Ernst and Young, NASDAQ, CNN Financial and USA Today.
Today, Vac-Tron is housed in a 70,000 square-foot warehouse. The multi-million dollar company has created more than 200 jobs, including both employees and subcontractors. Its products are distributed to 120 dealer outlets.
“I attribute our success to God. We have been extremely blessed. Also, we’ve never taken shortcuts to cheapen our products,” he said. “It’s a business model that’s worked well for us, and it’s one we’ll carry into the next 20 years.”
In 2014, the company received two Manufacturing Leadership Awards during Frost and Sullivan’s Manufacturing Leadership Council. The first category was in “Product Leadership” for its work on the 2010 BP oil spill cleanup. The second category was “Individual Project—Growth, Innovation and Leadership” in recognition of Don’s commitment to furthering the manufacturing industry.
Despite his success, Don remains extremely humble. In fact, the lifelong Lake County resident has distributed more than $200 million to the community. He has helped launch several churches and generously donated to local food banks, as well as an orphanage in Honduras. He also mentors local business owners free of charge. And he only utilizes the services of local paint, steel and fabrication companies.
“Part of my mission in life is to bring capital into the community and distribute it,” said Don, a 1980 graduate of Tavares High School. “I want to help enhance the community as much as possible.”
His heart also bleeds red, white and blue. On July 4, 2013, Don launched MadeIntheUSA.com to provide consumers with a directory of American-made manufacturers.
For more information, visit www.vactron.com.