By Johnny Jackson
Joe Rostron's inventions are not a result of happenstance or a desire to make some household item more convenient for himself. His inventions are, instead, the fruits of laboring to address the needs of his clients.
Rostron is the senior vice president of technology development at Southern States, LLC, in Hampton. He was recently presented the Outstanding Inventor Award by Southern States President and CEO Raj Anand for his work in creating new products that have benefited the electric utilities industry.
Rostron was awarded a plaque earlier this month in recognition of his achievements at Southern States.
Since joining the company in 1998, he has earned 15 patents for inventions in the field of high voltage systems. He holds a total of 32 different patents for inventions which have led to several commercial products, including the CapSwitcher Capacitor Switch, RLSwitcher Reactor Switch, and the CMD-Current Measurement Device.
"It's a tremendous opportunity to solve problems for customers with new ideas," said Rostron, 60. "I'm always looking for new ways to do things that frequently come up."
Rostron has spent his career working for power products manufacturers, including Westinghouse, Asea Brown Boveri, and Siemens. He holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Washington State University, and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
"In my typical work day, I'll get a few phones calls from customers out in the field [...] and that helps me understand what the needs are," he said. "There is a significant move toward higher-reliability equipment and a significant move toward the power quality of the networks."
Rostron said working at Southern States has given him the opportunity to come up with many more solutions to utility issues than he thought possible.
"Electric utilities don't have a reputation for being very high tech, but in certain areas where there is a need, they are very high tech," said Rostron, a native of Houston, Texas.
Rostron now lives in McDonough with his wife, Becky, of 35 years.
But he doesn't save all of his handy work for the job.
"We still have the original refrigerator from when we first got married," he said. "It's a Sears refrigerator. It's reliable, and I replace the heaters and thermostats and all in it."
Rostron and his wife have a son, David, who works in computer science.
Rostron said he plans to continue to work at Southern States for the time being, and offered some advice for future engineers.
"It's most definitely a tough market these days," he said. "For those interested in engineering, go for your dreams with all you have, and change the world for the better in the process."