Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction CO Colorado

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August 5, 2008
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Truck driving school going strong at the Business Incubator

GRAND JUNCTION " LeRoy and Patsy Arguello donated a course for training truck drivers valued at $3,271 to a silent auction held by their church's youth group.

Someone bought it and LeRoy ended up donating more of his time.

The Arguellos own 5 Star CDL Professional Training, a truck driving school the couple launched three years ago at The Business Incubator Center, an entrepreneurial community for new businesses located at 2591 B 3/4 Road.

LeRoy, 61, teaches people how to drive semi-tractor trailers and other heavy duty trucks. His school offers a variety of CDL licenses.

The Arguellos donated their most popular class " a 130-hour course that prepares students for CDL Class A certification " to their Catholic Church's World Youth Club's silent auction fundraiser.

"It turned out the student who bought it was (originally) from Nepal," Patsy, 59, said. "There was a language barrier."

The Nepali man was seeking to move into a truck driving job at the company he worked for. Although he spoke some English, he and LeRoy had a hard time understanding each other. The Nepali man failed the test several times.

"LeRoy was ready to give up," Patsy said.

"I didn't know what to do," LeRoy said.

Although frustrated, LeRoy didn't give up. Instead, he worked with the man one-on-one for several weeks after the class ended.

"The class had graduated, but I kept him," LeRoy said.

The Nepali student eventually passed the test and got the job he wanted.

LeRoy's students have ranged in ages 18 to 67. Some are fresh out of high school, while others are older and looking for a career change. His students have included an attorney, a financial advisor, and CEOs. About a third of his students are women.

LeRoy's students keep in touch long after they've finished the course and found jobs.

"Last week a student called. He got a brand new truck. His company is using him as a trainer now," LeRoy said.

The Incubator offers new and expanding businesses affordable space, shared administrative/office services and equipment and management assistance services.

"We cater services to specific clients," said Incubator executive director Chris Reddin.

The 5 Star CDL professional training school is among 48 businesses based out of the 60,000-square-foot Incubator campus. There's a large parking lot at the site where LeRoy trains and tests his student drivers.

"The parking lot is important for him," Reddin said. "It's not easy for a truck driving school to find a large lot. It's one of the assets we have " parking lot space."

The Arguellos signed a five-year contract with the Incubator where they are able to attend seminars and consult with business experts there.

LeRoy teaches theory in the classroom and spends hours giving behind-the-wheel driving lessons. Patsy pays the bills, schedules classes and does paperwork. The training is approved and regulated by the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

LeRoy also teaches rectification and fork-lift operating classes.

"I could show an operator how to pick up a quarter off the floor with a forklift. That's my trademark," LeRoy said. "But I get to keep it," he said, laughing.

Pharley Adams, 43, has driven a dump truck for Mountain Valley Contractors for about eight months, after obtaining a CDL Class A endorsement from LeRoy's school. Adams said he'll soon be driving a transport truck, moving heavy equipment around.

"LeRoy has a way of talking and showing what you need to know," Adams said.

Robb Henderson took the course 10 months ago, and now drives a flat-bed tandem10-wheeler for Grand Valley Vacuum Truck Service. He hauls drilling products and fluids to oil rigs.

"To have a CDL license is to have a piece of gold in this town," Henderson, 42, said.

Henderson doubled his salary when he left an 18-year career in retail management to begin truck driving.

"There are truck drivers and there are professional truck drivers. When you come out of his school you are a professional truck driver," Henderson said. "He stresses safety."

LeRoy's school also attracts students from Mesa County Workforce and Veterans Administration retraining programs.

The classes are ongoing, and include evenings and weekends.

"We are homegrown and here to help the community," Patsy said. "We see people who can't get good jobs because they can't quit jobs to get training. So we adjust to their schedule."

Patsy has worked for the state of Colorado for 27 years in the division of vocational rehabilitation. LeRoy drove trucks and trained drivers for the state, before starting his own business with Patsy.

"We have always had a business on the side," Patsy said.

The couple, who've been married for 39 years, used to own La Mexican restaurant, where KAFM Community Radio station is now located.

"When we had the restaurant we'd feed (school kids) free lunches and teach them about running a business," Patsy said.

"We've always had two jobs. That's what it takes sometimes to open a business successfully, to have enough working capital. The whole secret is plan and save."

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The Post Independent Updated Aug 5, 2008 09:05PM Published Aug 5, 2008 08:41PM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.