Af­ter 65 years, he’s still on the job

Bill Salot has worked at the same chem­i­cal plant in Hopewell for 65 years

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOHN REID BLACK­WELL MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Bill Salot was 23 years old, fresh out of the Army, en­gaged to be mar­ried and look­ing for a job when he first ar­rived in his brideto-be’s home­town of Petersburg.

It was April 1953. Dwight D. Eisen­hower had re­cently taken of­fice as pres­i­dent. The Korean War was still rag­ing.

Thanks to his me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing de­gree from the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, Salot soon got an en­gi­neer­ing job at what was then the Allied Chem­i­cal and Dye Corp. fac­tory in Hopewell.

“There was a big ex­pan­sion in the works at the time,” Salot re­called. Engi­neers were in de­mand.

“I was lucky,” he said. Sixty-five years later, Salot is still on the job.

At age 88, he rises on week­days at around 4 a.m. for break­fast and some early-morn­ing read­ing — usu­ally ei­ther Chris­tian read­ing or en­gi­neer­ing pub­li­ca­tions — be­fore head­ing from his home in Colo­nial Heights to work at the plant, now part of Ad­vanSix Inc. He aims to ar­rive by 7 a.m. but ad­mits that he some­times misses that by a bit.

Salot is a se­nior reli­a­bil­ity engi­neer, part of a team that keeps the in­fra­struc­ture hum­ming at the plant, a mas­sive com­plex of build­ings and wind­ing pipes that cov­ers about 200 acres. The plant makes capro­lac­tam, a key in­gre­di­ent in the ma­te­rial Ny­lon 6, which is used in such prod­ucts as au­to­mo­tive and elec­tronic com­po­nents, car­pets, sports ap­parel, fish­ing nets and pack­ag­ing.

“The ob­ject is to get re­li­able equip­ment to start with, and main­tain it to keep it go­ing, and an­a­lyze it, if it fails,” Salot said.

“The prob­lems are in­ter­est­ing,” he said. “Some of the prob­lems are chal­leng­ing like a sport. It is not only try­ing to solve a prob­lem, but try­ing to do it bet­ter than any­body has done it be­fore.”

Dur­ing his ca­reer, the plant has been through some name changes, from Allied Chem­i­cal and Dye Corp. to Allied Chem­i­cal Corp. to Allied Sig­nal Corp. to Honey­well International, and now Ad­vanSix Inc., which was spun off as a sep­a­rate com­pany from New Jer­sey-based Honey­well in 2016.

His pro­fes­sional longevity also puts him in rare com­pany.

Only about 6 per­cent of all work­ers have been with their cur­rent em­ployer for 25 or more years, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics data. Av­er­age em­ployee ten­ure across all in­dus­tries and or­ga­ni­za­tion sizes is eight years, ac­cord­ing to re­search by the So­ci­ety for Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment.

The Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics does not have data on how many peo­ple over 85 re­main em­ployed, but 8 per­cent of peo­ple over 75 are em­ployed, com­pared with 60 per­cent for the pop­u­la­tion as a whole.

Last week, Salot’s col­leagues at the plant and ex­ec­u­tives for Ad­vanSix gath­ered to cel­e­brate his ca­reer, which in­cludes a long list of ac­com­plish­ments and lead­er­ship roles such as be­ing past chair­man of the Cen­tral Vir­ginia sec­tion of the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of Me­chan­i­cal Engi­neers. He also has pub­lished a lot of tech­ni­cal pa­pers with ti­tles like “Eco­nomics of High-Pres­sure, Steam-Meth­ane Re­former Cat­a­lyst Tubes.”

The train­ing cen­ter at the plant was re­named the Bill Salot Learn­ing Cen­ter in his honor, and a new sign was un­veiled at the build­ing.

“You em­body the idea of life­long learn­ing,” Ad­vanSix Pres­i­dent and CEO Erin N. Kane told Salot dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

Salot ap­proached the honor with self-dep­re­cat­ing wit.

“When I was your age, I never dreamed I would see my name pub­licly dis­played,” he told the crowd af­ter the new sign was un­veiled. “Now, it has hap­pened twice. I have got one in my park­ing space, too.”

“I haven’t de­cided yet which one I want to be buried un­der,” he quipped.

His fam­ily mem­bers were in at­ten­dance, in­clud­ing his sons Jeff and David, daugh­ter Sue and grand­son Cody. They all live in Colo­nial Heights. Salot’s wife, Louise, passed away in 2015 at age 85.

His sons at­tribute his pro­fes­sional longevity to dili­gence.

“He put one foot in front of the other, un­til he walked around the world,” Jeff said.

“I am the youngest son, and I am likely to re­tire be­fore he does,” David joked.

Salot at­tributes it to a higher power.

“I think the over­rid­ing fac­tor was God guided me here, and this is my way of serv­ing the Lord,” he said.

Tech­nol­ogy has changed quite a bit in Salot’s ca­reer.

“The changeover was, I walked in one morn­ing and I had a com­puter,” he said.

Tucked away in his desk, Salot still keeps his slide rule, a hand­held de­vice for do­ing com­plex math­e­mat­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions, com­monly used by engi­neers in the days be­fore elec­tronic cal­cu­la­tors and com­put­ers. Salot has had the slide rule since he got out of col­lege. Oc­ca­sion­ally, he’ll show it to a young engi­neer, almost as a kind of ar­ti­fact.

The Ad­vanSix train­ing cen­ter was re­named in honor of Bill Salot on Tues­day. The plant was for­merly known as Honey­well International, as well as Allied Sig­nal Corp., Allied Chem­i­cal Corp. and Allied Chem­i­cal and Dye Corp.

The 88-year-old Salot still keeps his slide rule tucked away in his desk.

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