Donjon Shipbuilding and Repair's tenure in Erie has been short, but sweet. The New Jersey based company took over a closed down Erie Shipbuilding in 2009. Just a little more than two years later their workload is at full capacity.
"Right now we have approximately nine vessels lined up for winter work for repair work so I understand this is the most ships that's been in this ship yard for about 35 years," said general manager Paul Deterding.
They now employ more than 200 local people to build, and repair some really big boats. Vessels that carry coal, iron ore, limestone and salt to different cities across the great lakes. And so far, Erie seems to be a perfect spot for their business.
"There is a real need here in this area for the self unloading barges and the vessels that travel here on the great lakes to have another repair facility that they can bring their vessels for repair," said Deterding.
The newest pride and joy at Donjon is the "Ken Boothe Sr." and the "Lakes Contender," an 870 foot long tug and barge combination. It's the first new ship built in Erie since 1973.
"It's nice to start something from nothing and create the Contender that we have over here or the tugboat we have over there. Not a lot of people can say that," said welder Matt Ross.
No doubt the work is tough but it can be pretty rewarding too.
"It's not easy work. I mean it's always something different, it's never the same stuff," said Ross.
"I think a lot of the guys that work here enjoy the tough work. You're working out in the elements and it's not work that everybody does every day. They can take a lot of pride every time a vessel leaves here that they repaired it or they built it," said Deterding.
And for anyone looking to take on the challenge, they're always hiring. The problem is just finding the right people.
"It is difficult to find the skilled labor that we need so we're always looking and continuing to build that core," said Deterding.
But as long as there's work to be done, and right now there's plenty, they're glad to be in this position.
"I think that any time you bring this volume and this kind of business to any community it's critical to the community and the economy so we're glad and proud to be a part of that," said Deterding.