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Vanguard Sciences

Vanguard Sciences sample preppers Dana Gugat and Claudia Vazquez prepare items for testing at one of the company's on-site laboratories. In January, the North Sioux City-based company announced it had been acquired by SGS of Geneva, Switzerland, one of the world's largest testing and inspection companies.

NORTH SIOUX CITY — Executives with Vanguard Sciences view the recent acquisition of the North Sioux City-based food testing laboratory as a cause for celebration and not concern.

“We got to know each other so we’re really confident in the future for Vanguard as SGS,” said Phyllis Antonacci, president and CEO of Vanguard Sciences.

Geneva, Switzerland-based SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, acquired Vanguard for an undisclosed sum last week. The North Sioux City company will eventually be rebranded as SGS Vanguard Sciences.

Unlike a lot of situations where a much larger company purchases a smaller one, company officials said this one will be positive for current employees. SGS has more than 92,000 employees globally while Vanguard has 95 at its two laboratories in North Sioux City and Oklahoma City.

“For a company our size to have the number of PhDs we have, the number of qualified people with the backgrounds they have is almost unprecedented in our industry,” said John Hayes, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Vanguard.

“Companies, two, three, 10 times the size of ours don’t have the quality of people that we have. So taking that quality pool of people (and) expanding it out so that they can touch more locations around the country and create more locations and offer them additional opportunities, that was really attractive.”

Rather than subtract from existing staffing, Antonacci and Hayes expect more jobs to be created across the board as a result of the sale.

"We’re looking for Siouxland to see more jobs to come out of this, same with Oklahoma,” Antonacci said.

Antonacci and Hayes, both veterans of the food service industry, started Vanguard a decade ago and built the company from scratch. Both of them will stick around for the next few years to help ease the transition.

Their talks with SGS started three years ago when they initially reached out to the larger firm to see about sharing resources.

At the time, SGS lacked a food testing lab in the U.S. and Vanguard’s own chemical lab was limited in some areas.

During those discussions, the Vanguard team said they realized SGS was similar to their company in a lot of ways and they thought the cultures would mesh well, while they think SGS officials were intrigued by their burgeoning client list and overall quality of service.

“It’s really important to the client that they have consistency, stability, reliability and timeliness with results,” Hayes said. “It’s not a small thing to decide to use a different laboratory for any company.

“In order to make that decision, that laboratory has to have a proven history of quality operations, quality people and be well respected in the industry; that makes that transition easier for companies.”

Citing the need for that type of service in Siouxland, Hayes and Antonacci both relocated from the Chicago area to launch Vanguard, which previously was known as Aegis Food Testing Laboratories.

Both knew the company had high growth potential and they would sell it someday.

However, they wanted to make sure the buyers were the right fit and that they would keep the business in Siouxland as a way of thanking the region for its support.

“All the folks that have helped us grow and grow rapidly, this is an opportunity to bring something back for all of that,” Hayes said. “There’ll be more jobs here, more growth here, more opportunities for other people."


Business reporter

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