Vic Salerno jokes that he can’t even change a light bulb.
What makes that funny is that he’s the vice chairman and CEO of Victor-based O’Connell Electric Company.
Salerno is retiring from O’Connell next year after 50 years with the company, but prepares to depart as his company helps to build several key COVID-19 vaccine projects in our area.
He sat down with Adam Chodak to talk about the company and its work.
Adam Chodak: This is a 110-year-old company. I don’t know when electricity got off the ground, but…
Vic Salerno: I actually knew the founder, Jack O’Connell. He was the son of Irish immigrants. He was in his 90s. Walter Parkes had bought the company in 1968, I came in ’71 because CEO of 2006, but, yeah, he was in on the beginning of it all.
AC: What kind of work did they do back then?
VS: They did some power line work and everything else in between so…
AC: And now you’ve done some work on vaccination sites…
VS: We did a large project for Tessy Plastics in Auburn, NY. They’re making all the components for all the vaccinations. Thermo Fisher is a clean room we had 25 guys, got it done right on time. It’s a big deal … We have prefab factory in Henrietta, it’s all computerized, we made all these components offsite and deliver them to the job. It was outstanding work by our people and they’re highly skilled and highly trained and it’s a great company … Over 800 employees and the best thing I like about it is we’re providing for over 800 families to prosper and we give great jobs out and it’s a wonderful feeling.
AC: I was going to ask you what kept you at the company for 50 years and it sounds like the people.
VS: I love what I do and we’re wildly successful.
AC: The first time I got to know O’Connell was when the company made the wire for Nik Wallenda…
VS: We did three of those jobs for him. The first one was at Niagara Falls … Tom Parkes, he’s the one who got the call, almost thought it was a crank call. I didn’t go there for two reasons, one, I’m afraid of heights and number two, if something happened bad it would be all on me.