Sure, Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group might be at the pinnacle of performance art in Las Vegas these days, but the International Roofing Expo created its own stir in the city Feb. 14-16, at least as far as the roofing industry was concerned. In fact, performers from Cirque du Soleil were on hand to entertain onlookers before the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the show.

On hand to cut the ribbon to officially open the IRE show are Jill Nash, publisher of Roofing Contractor; Bill Good, executive vice president of NRCA; Reid Ribble, president of NRCA; Mark Gaulin, senior vice president of NRCA; Rick McConnell, vice president, Hanley Wood Exhibitions; and Donna Bellantone, associate show director, Hanley Wood Exhibitions.
Sure, Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group might be at the pinnacle of performance art in Las Vegas these days, but the International Roofing Expo created its own stir in the city Feb. 14-16, at least as far as the roofing industry was concerned. In fact, performers from Cirque du Soleil were on hand to entertain onlookers before the ribbon-cutting ceremony that officially opened the show.

According to Hanley Wood Exhibitions, the company that owns and produces the event, 975 booths staffed by 435 exhibiting companies were on the floor of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase their products. These numbers were up substantially from last year's show, which had 884 booths and 370 companies. This year, companies from 15 countries were represented and 10.5 percent of the exhibitors were from outside of the United States.

Keynote speaker Barry Asmus is optimistic about the economic outlook for the country over the next 30 years. (Photo courtesy of Leif Lowe, Oscar Einzig Photography.)
Attendance was also up substantially, said Rick McConnell, vice president, Hanley Wood Exhibitions. The final numbers were not tallied as of press time, but at that point McConnell confirmed that the actual attendance figure had topped the 9,000 mark, and would exceed last year's total of 7,492 by at least 20 percent. "These are real, verified numbers, not just registered attendees," said McConnell. "The total can only go up as we verify the data." He pointed out that this was the second year that attendance had increased more than 20 percent.

The panel for the "Big 10 Trends in Residential Roofing" seminar included (from left) Tom Daniel, Ricardo Gonz
"The show included more residential companies exhibiting compared to the previous year," said McConnell, pointing to the participation of CertainTeed and Elk as two examples. "We had a nice mix of residential and commercial contractors in attendance."

Those contractors could be seen in abundance roaming the show floor, looking at new products, attending educational sessions, and participating in the National Roofing Contractors Association meetings.

Rick Damato, editorial director of Roofing Contractor, moderated several panel discussions, including "Field Productivity: What Makes a Good Roofing Contractor and Field Manager" and "Inspecting a Rooftop for Safety." (Photo courtesy of Leif Lowe, Oscar Einzig Photography.)

Keynote Speaker

Providing the keynote address at the event was Dr. Barry Asmus, senior economist for the National Center for Policy Analysis, who examined the economic landscape in his presentation titled "The Best is Yet to Come."

Asmus acknowledged that most economists have a perpetually gloomy outlook and offer dire predictions for the future. "The good news," said Asmus, "is the bad news is wrong."

Shane Nickel (left) of the Tapco Group often had a bird's-eye view of the show atop the PowerPole, a drill-powered scaffolding system. Here he comes down to ground level to demonstrate its operation to Zach Ellis and Zach Ellis Jr. of the Ellis Co., Kenner, La.
He predicts that the United States is poised to enter one of the greatest periods of economic expansion the country has ever experienced, and he pointed to solid demographics and low inflation rates as two of the key reasons why. Asmus joked about a not-too-distant future in which huge factories will be run by one man and a dog. "The man is there to feed the dog," he said. "The dog is there to keep the man from touching the machinery."

What are the implications of this nascent economic boom for the roofing industry? He pointed to a study by the Brookings Institute that predicted that 60 percent of the commercial buildings that will be in use in 2030 have not been built yet as evidence of strong business expansion.

The expo featured an expanded lineup of 50 education and training opportunities addressing a myriad of topics. Thirteen sessions reached maximum meeting room capacity and had standing-room-only crowds. (Photo courtesy of Leif Lowe, Oscar Einzig Photography.)
"Freedom is the mainspring of economic growth," Asmus concluded. "The best is yet to come for America and for the rest of the world as it embraces capitalism and the market."

The staff of La Polla Coatings was out in force to help attendees on day one of the show.

Educational Sessions

The expo presented numerous educational opportunities for contractors, and an expanded seminar schedule included sessions on business management, money matters, technical applications, new products, green roofing, field productivity, and sales and service.

One seminar titled "The Big 10 Trends in Roofing" attempted to encompass almost everything. Moderated by Dan Piché, general manager of Owens Corning's residential roofing division, the session featured a panel including Tom Hutchinson, Miriam Tate, Brett Hall, Ricardo Gonz

Michael Creighton and Brian Groth of Rain Flow USA showcased the company's gutter protection system.
Piché opened the seminar by exploring the topic "Mother Nature is Driving Code Changes." He noted that the catastrophic weather events of 2004 and 2005 are having an impact on consumer consciousness and that the drive for code unification will have an effect beyond the Gulf Coast region. He urged contractors to differentiate themselves by upselling wind-resistant, hail-resistant, and ice-dam prevention products where appropriate.

Tom Hutchinson, a principal with Hutchinson Design Group, Barrington, Ill., and the president of the Roof Consultants Institute (RCI), noted that environmentally friendly applications are being driven by code changes and have increasing appeal for consumers. In his discussion titled "Green is More Than a Shingle Color," Hutchinson noted that sustainability is a tough term to define in the roofing industry, but it encompasses everything from conception to demolition and focuses on using resources effectively and conserving energy. "Sustainability is all about performance," he said. "You've got to take a long-term view."

Steve Duncan (left) and Deron Thuenemann of PrimeSource show off the capabilities of the GRC58 Grip-Rite cap stapler.
Miriam Tate, an architectural color consultant and the owner of the California-based Miriam Tate Co., focused on exterior color in her discussion "Shingles are Now a Design Tool." She cited an increase in neighborhoods encompassing homes of various architectural styles and noted that colors are a key element in each home and in the neighborhood as a whole. The roof is often the building's largest design element, especially when seen from afar, but its color is sometimes treated as an afterthought. "The roof is a key design element and should be considered first and not last," she said.

National Coatings celebrates its 25th anniversary with a cake at the company's booth.
When Piché spoke on "Power Tools Help Build Business," he was referring to the Internet and software, not drills and nail guns. Today's power tools for selling include Web sites, detailed demographic information, and visualization software that can help homeowners see how their house will look with new products installed. "Help consumers see you as a roofing professional," he said. "If you're not using these tools, beware your competitor who is."

Brett Hall of Joe Hall Roofing, Arlington, Texas, kept the focus on sales with his presentation "Higher Costs Mean Selling Total Value." With labor and product costs on the rise, selling value becomes even more important, said Hall, who urged people in the field to "sell code worthiness." Speed in turning around estimates is essential, he said, noting that bids should be "sales packages designed to educate the homeowner."

John Arellano and Charles Nichols of GAF gave contractors a close-up look at the company's products including Freedom™ TPO with RapidSeam™.
Ricardo Gonz

Rick Wester of RAS Systems shows expo attendees a Turbobend machine.
Insurance is never far from the mind of most business owners, and Hall took on the topic in his discussion titled "Insurance Practices Need Attention." Deductibles for homeowners are on the rise, noted Hall, but this has had one beneficial effect: Homeowners are focusing increased attention on bids and emphasizing quality work as they are forced to spend their own money. "This is helping drive out the storm chasers," said Hall.

Piché explored the eighth trend, "Innovations are Speeding up Applications." New nail guns, shingles with wider nailing areas, and rooftop delivery are all designed to increase production without sacrificing quality. He urged attendees to examine all products with an eye toward efficient application, concluding, "Every minute you spend on the roof impacts your bottom line."

NRCA President Reid Ribble took on all comers at the pingpong table during "The Ribble Challenge," sponsored by Owens Corning. Proceeds from the event went to support ROOFPAC.
There are more homeowners than ever, noted Hall, who spoke on the ninth trend, "Customer Expectations and Needs are Evolving." To succeed in this changing environment, roofing contractors must educate themselves and their employees, differentiate themselves, and stay one step ahead of the competition. According to Hall, keys to the process include defining how you're different and developing your corporate image. Another key? "Be involved in the community," advised Hall. "It will bring your business to a new level."

Tom Daniel, safety director for the Owens Corning Construction Services businesses, concluded the seminar with a discussion titled "Accepting Injuries is Unacceptable." He pointed to a 50 percent increase in falls last year, saying, "Now we're on OSHA's radar screen." He urged contractors to educate themselves and their employees on safety requirements and stay on top of new developments in safety products, including the Safety Pole ( If there isn't a product to help in a given application, it's up to contractors to help develop it. "Tell manufacturers what you need," urged Daniel.

Rand McReynolds, Steve Wadding and Steve Bogner of Polyglass took to the stage in the demonstration area to show contractors how to apply Polystick TU Plus underlayment.

Productivity and Safety

Another seminar, "Field Productivity: What Makes a Good Roofing Contractor and Field Manager" had such an intriguing title, we had to check it out. In fact, this session was actually two full sessions presented one after the other by Richard D. Dutmer, a director of FMI Corp., a firm offering management consulting and investment banking to the construction industry.

Dutmer began with a discussion of productivity, defined as output divided by input. Productivity is what gives contractors a competitive edge. Contractors who devise methods to consistently measure and improve on their productivity will ultimately succeed, said Dutmer. He went on to state that truly successful managers are the ones who drive that thinking down through the entire organization. Dutmer promoted the sharing of key measurements with everyone in the company, not just key managers. "When people know what the score is, they respond," he said.

Carl S. Granetzke, president, Excalibur Tools USA, demonstrates the speed of his sheet metal cutter.
The first part of the presentation focused on the business principals of Dr. Edward Demming, who made his mark in the world of business by helping to transform the decimated postwar industrial infrastructure in Japan into the powerhouse that it became decades later. The basic model called for constant improvement in productivity, beginning with removing obstacles that get in the way of profitable output.

Patric Wright held a drawing at the New Tech Machinery booth, and the prize was a 5-inch gutter machine with a retail price of $5,875. Lisa Allen of Hanley Wood was on hand to draw the winner's name, and had to get on the phone to convince the winner, Jim Sather of Jim's Custom Gutters, Eatonville, Wash., that he had really won the machine.
Shifting to the issue of the roofing industry, Dutmer cited a number of issues field managers should focus on, but keys included a great interface between estimating and the field that leads to improved project controls. The organizational support mechanism is key to continuous improvement, including daily focus on improving productivity, and a focus on training at all levels. His message was clear: Building a winning culture takes time and a devotion to more than just heading out the door every morning to put on roofs. You simply must take the time to review, evaluate, tweak, train, execute and start over again.

Robert Pringle of Evans Service Co. Inc., Elmira, N.Y., presented a session titled "Inspecting a Rooftop for Safety." Pringle brought not only a wealth of experience in the field of construction safety but many years of experience overseeing the safety operations for one of the nation's leading roof-contracting firms.

Marcia Wright (center), West and Southeast sales manager for Roofing Contractor, made sure Jack Rogers, Betsy Kosloski, Steve Carlson, Mike Wallace and Vic Domhoff of Firestone Metal Products had the latest issue of the IRE's official show publication.
Pringle started off by reminding the group of some grisly statistics. Roofing is listed as No. 7 in the list of deaths per 100,000 employees in the United States, according to the most recently available statistics. Agencies who track these statistics tell us that all incidents reported can be broken down into two basic categories: unsafe acts or unsafe conditions. In the case of fatalities, 88 percent are attributed to unsafe acts. This leads to the conclusion that time and money spent on worker training is time and money well spent. Pringle quotes the OSHA claim that every dollar spent on worker training returns five dollars in savings.

Staff members at the Berger Buildings Products booth are joined by Roofing Contractor's Jill Nash for a team photo at the expo.

Taking Training To the Show Floor

The training didn't stop in the meeting rooms, as hands-on educational sessions and product demonstrations kept popping up all over the show floor. Some manufacturers made use of the stage in the demonstration area to give attendees application tips firsthand. For example, Polyglass and Polyfoam teamed up to present a demonstration on a new tile roofing application technique. First, Rand McReynolds, Steve Wadding, and Steve Bogner of Polyglass took the opportunity to demonstrate how its Polystick TU Plus underlayment was applied. Then Max Miller and Dave Faulkner of Polyfoam Products taught attendees how the company's Polyset product could be used to apply tile to a substrate utilizing the underlayment.

Jim Miranda, Mike Ennis, Bruce Duncan and Mike Kontranowski of Dow Building and Construction pose for the camera.
Charles Nichols and John Arellano of GAF took advantage of a booth located just inside the main entrance to host eye-catching demonstrations of Fire Out™ and Deck Armor™. GAF's Dave Harrison even took a few minutes before the show opened to brief the press on GAF's plans for the coming year. Harrison, senior vice president of GAF Materials Corp. with responsibilities for marketing, technical services and business development, was open about sharing GAF's key to success. "We stopped selling roofing," he said. "We found people expect good products, good service, and a competitive price. You only succeed by adding value, and you only add value by finding a problem and solving it."

An essential component of that process is helping the property owner understand the problem and the possible solutions, and here training is essential, asserted Harrison. The manufacturer has made it a point to develop training materials, including Spanish versions and special programs for dyslexics. The training CDs are provided to contractors at no cost. Why? "Winners invest back in the industry," said Harrison.

All smiles and ready to greet expo attendees are representatives of ALCO including Ed Sueta (left) and Ed Karpinski (center).

Raising the Bar

The focus on education, technology, and the long-term benefits of today's roofing products made the 2006 IRE the perfect site for the NRCA to announce the launch of SpecRight (, a program with the ultimate goal of providing useful and consistent information about roofs, energy and the environment to building owners, designers and consultants. The program's slogan is "Save Your Energy. You've Found the Right Roof."

NRCA's Bill Good explained that a consortium of major commercial roofing manufacturers, contractors, and industry associations joined NRCA in developing and supporting the program. According to Good, SpecRight's fundamental message is roof systems that are properly designed and installed and incorporate the right materials can contribute significantly to energy savings - and may contribute to protecting the environment.

The program is designed to educate contractors about factors related to energy conservation that a building owner should consider when making a roof buying decision. (For more information on SpecRight, see page 6.)

Darcy Warriner, Lisa Buenzli and Sarah Tholen were on hand to introduce Johns Manville's new marketing slogan, "Defy the Elements."

Contractor Feedback

Contractors we spoke with had high praise for the event. Scott Wolf Sr., president of Wolfman Construction in New Orleans, attended his first IRE show this year and said he was very pleased with the results. "It's great to meet the people you've dealt with over the phone for a long time and put a face with the name," he said. "It's a wonderful opportunity to network with people from all around the country and see the latest technology all under one roof." He said he picked up some new vendors of some hard-to-find products and is debating about purchasing updated business software.

"I've really been impressed with the show the last two years," said Brett Hall of Joe Hall Roofing, Arlington, Texas, a longtime attendee who has seen improvement in the show's inner workings since Hanley Wood has overseen the event. "As a contactor, I've enjoyed the professionalism and the ease of going to the show, and registration and sign-in was easier than ever this year."

Duro-Last Roofing showcased its custom-prefabricated, reinforced, thermoplastic membrane roofing system.
Hall, himself a speaker at one of the seminars, pointed to the educational sessions as the key indicator of a show's value. "The sessions I attended were very strong," he said. "When I judge whether or not an educational class is strong, I look at how many notes I make on my course syllabus and how many ideas I have on my to-do list when the show is over. Based on my list, I've definitely found some new opportunities to grow my business and help my company perform at a higher level."

"This event showcases our professionalism," Hall concluded. "It demonstrates we're not just roofers. We're helping the environment. We're on the cutting edge of recycling and environmentally friendly products."