By James Betza
Senior Designer, Onex Inc
I pursued drafting/design in high school with basic classes such as board drawing and introduction to Computer Aided Design. These classes helped me understand how geometrical shapes are used throughout architecture, which shapes tend to be strongest, how to draw objects to scale, and other fundamentals. Afterwards, I attended Triangle Tech, also in Erie, where I studied architectural computer aided drafting and design (CAD). This led me to my first job in the field as a Designer 1 for Northrup Grumman Shipbuilding, located in Newport News VA. Northrup Grumman designed and manufactured all the navy’s aircraft carriers at the time and I had the privilege of working to design both stowage and weapons elevator systems for the Gerald R. Ford. (CVN 78). Throughout the next nine years I moved to central Virginia, and then to the outskirts of Asheville, NC where I became a senior designer for a small company manufacturing kilns for the lumber industry. Although that area is beautiful, there was a high cost of living and did not have many other jobs that fit my career criteria. This concerned me, due to having limited opportunities if anything were to happen with that employer and being so far away from home. Family is important to me and I wanted to be closer to my parents, along with sister and nephews who are growing up so fast.
Transitioning Back to NWPA
An old friend from high school who worked at Onex told me about a position available, and the rest is history. Erie was fun place growing up, as I recalled going fishing as a kid, hunting with my dad, and doing many other outdoors activities. There are local fairs to go to in the summer, Waldameer (the local amusement park), the peninsula in which you can enjoy many beaches, grilling at the gazebos, biking and kayaking. The community here is pretty tight knit and you tend to make friends easily. The locals will help direct you to places of interest and everything in the area is within a 45 min drive. Anyone who is looking to venture out a little farther to a big city has Pittsburgh, Cleveland, or Buffalo all within 2hrs distance.
Benefits of NWPA
I’m happy with my decision to move back to Northwest PA and with new jobs/activities popping up in the area I don’t see why others wouldn’t be as well. Manufacturing was a big part of Erie’s core before I left, but I feel it’s grown even more since then. Design and manufacturing go hand in hand, so this comforts me in knowing the job market will have future opportunities. Soon I’ll be looking to buy a home, and if I start a family, I know there are good schools and sports programs in the vicinity. I enjoy a location with all 4 seasons, recreational activities, and a friendly community. That’s what we have here in NWPA and I encourage others to come check it out for themselves.