Team Member Spotlight: James Kane

JHA Environmental CAD Technician & GIS Lead James Kane is based in Montrose, PA, which also happens to be his hometown. “I grew up in Montrose, went to Montrose area high school. I was an Eagle Scout with Troop 92 right here in town.”

After high school, James chose to study Landscape Architecture at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York in Syracuse. “I went there for a year,” he explains, “and I quickly realized how expensive college was. So, I started looking into the National Guard.” Joining the military was a natural move for James. “I come from a military family. My father was a TAC officer, a kind of drill sergeant for officers. So, I kind of grew up with that.”

James believes that his father’s influence and his own service in the National Guard provided him with the strong foundation that would benefit anyone. “It definitely prepares a person for different situations, it teaches people how to work, it instills discipline. ‘Be here at 8?’ In the military that means you are going to be there at 7:45, or you are late. There is a sense of responsibility, there is a sense of leadership that I don’t think you get anywhere else. When I was a company commander, I had one hundred and thirty-three people under me.”

James and his partner Brittany recently built a home in Montrose and had a son, Beckham. “It’s been awesome to watch him grow and learn new things. I am really excited about the future. Both of our parents live in the area, so the grandparents get to spend a lot of time with him. That’s been really nice.”

In addition to family, golf is a passion for James. He participates in a league at the Montrose Country Club every Wednesday in the season. “During the summer I leave work a little early on Wednesdays, and go over there and play golf. That’s my kind of away time from work.”

James chose to study GIS (Geographic Information Systems) because he was looking for something that complemented landscape architecture. He was intrigued by the role of Geospatial Engineer, which he calls “just a fancy word for GIS Tech. I took a year off from college, I went to Fort Belvoir for six to eight months at the National Geospatial Intelligence College. That’s where I picked up the GIS skill set.”

Geographic Information Systems are computer-based tools used to store, visualize, analyze, and interpret data relevant to geography. Geographic data (also called spatial, or geospatial data) identifies the geographic location of features. GIS is an important tool for the military, and is used widely in industry. “For example”, James explains, “we’ve been working on some solar site analyses at JHA. What GIS brings to the table is I can compile all the information [about a potential site for a solar farm] in one map. Things such slope, nearest landowner. Or say they require a 200-foot buffer around a wetland, I can create that buffer. And maybe there’s an offset for a property line, I can offset that property line.” GIS allows clients to model and analyze potential sites in advance and allow for much better-informed decisions before a shovel ever hits the ground. “That’s the power of it,” he explains.

James has been at JHA Companies for a little over three and a half years, and has no plans to go anywhere. “People leave companies because of management generally, and that’s why I’ve stayed here. You get that sense that the management and the people really do care about you, and they want to see you succeed. I truly do believe that. They want to hire good people, they want to keep them, and they want to see them succeed. That’s why I like working here.”

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