What follows is a look back at some of the highlights and lowlights of this column in 2002.

We started the year by raising an eyebrow at the goings-on in Chicago over its new energy code that was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2002. This code was developed under the radar of the roofing industry but had major implications for us. The Chicago Roofing Contractors Association with help from the National Roofing Contractors Association spent considerable time and resources working with the City of Chicago to come up with a reasonable and workable energy code for roofing. As of this writing, the solution is still pending. When the final version is adopted, it will be better for the roofing industry while still giving building owners more options and better performing buildings. We stick with our story: Know and support your building and code officials, and your local political leaders as well.

Speaking of politics, we put forth the notion that political involvement is an essential part of owning and running a business. We told you about John Sanchez (R), a roofing contractor who was running for governor of New Mexico. As it turned out, Sanchez was defeated by Bill Richardson (D), a veteran of state and national politics. John Sanchez is young, and will be heard from again. It would be nice to have a roofing contractor in the U.S. Senate, wouldn’t it?

It was suggested that there was room for a slate roofing association. To date the disparate interests in this growing part of our industry have yet to come together. Still think it’s a good idea, but whose time just has yet to come.

On three separate occasions this column looked at the many challenges of landing sales, particularly in challenging economic times. When their “comfort zone” market dries up, many contractors have a hard time shaking the tunnel vision long enough to look around for the next great opportunity. Change is hard especially when it comes to selling a product or a service.

Early in the year when shingle manufacturers swept through their designer shingle product lines and raised the warranties, we figured they were going to take warranties out of the competitive picture altogether. That did not happen, but the (former) upper range of laminated shingles has disappeared from many markets, essentially lowering the price point across a broad range of products.

In May we reported on the demise of one of the “roll-up” commercial roofing firms. We stated that from the ashes of this group, a new kind of consolidation may occur in our business that would involve sharing of ideas and assets, not “rolling-up” as one company, but remaining independent. We did not know, but two months earlier, a group had already incorporated as Affiliated Independent Roofing Contractors of America. This group of 30 of America’s top roofing contractors announced in early October that its association is open for business under the more user-friendly name of RoofConnect.

RoofConnect is a non-profit association of roofing contractors which, according to the press release, “recognizes the need for complete regional/national coverage of consistent superior service from the most reputable, trustworthy, independent roofing contractors in the industry.” President Tim Rainey, Vice President Johnny Zamrzla, Secretary Glenn Langer, and an executive committee consisting of another five members head the group. This particular group of 30 contractors (see the list at www.RoofConnect.com) reads like a who’s who of venerable commercial roofing firms.

RoofConnect has set standards for its members that include specific requirements for a service department, NRCA membership, a minimum of 10 years in business, a written safety program, financial stability and high-level insurance. A potential member must be recommended by a current member and be approved by the executive committee. These are just the highlights; there are other requirements too numerous to mention here. Ten percent of the members are slated to undergo an independent audit of these requirements annually.

The group has formed or is forming task forces to take advantage of the synergies of this new affiliation. To name a few of the joint initiatives, they are working on national sales and marketing, a Severe Weather Action Team (SWAT), a legal team and a roof-asset management team.

Roofing Contractor is going to spend some time looking at this new model, RoofConnect, and will report on it in detail in a future issue. Will this concept work any better than the consolidators who are in the business together already? As with any new enterprise, that will depend on execution. So again I say: “We’ll see.”