Roofing Contractor caught up with Bill Collins, the former president and CEO of GAF Materials Corp. Collins has been out of the day-to-day roofing industry for a couple of years, and we asked him to let us know what he has been up to lately and share his thoughts on the future of the roofing industry.

In 2005, I was promoting a book to roofing industry execs - The Oil Factor by Stephen and Donna Leeb, which boldly predicted the progression and impact of oil costs to and above $100 a barrel. The impact on the roofing industry would be direct, with serious effects on margins all the way from manufacturing to installation, especially when year over year oil cost increases were steep. My advice to progressive roofing contractors and distributors at the time was clear - become more important to both your key customers and suppliers to differentiate yourself in the markets that you serve for your long-term health. Be special, big or die.

Now, in 2008, I believe the book to read is Green to Gold by Daniel Esty and Andrew Winston. This is not just a matter of being environmentally in tune with the times, but attitudinally correct in the broader sense of true sustainability as it relates to companies, communities and the leaders that keep those engines running. The new message to the roofing industry is to enlist your “high potentials” in meaningful projects that tap into this future; don’t just cut costs and wait to be surprised by the obvious - that your customers expect you to be ahead of the curve in helping them understand all aspects of lower life cycle cost systems.

I left GAF Materials Corp. in 2006 to go to work for Habitat for Humanity in the reconstruction of low-income housing in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The unique perspective gained from this experience brought me face to face with the need for investment in sustainable construction to address the bigger issues of consumer value, energy and the environment in the broader exterior products industry.

Fortunately, I found a middle market private equity firm, Pegasus Capital Advisors (PCA), that was committed to investing in and growing profitable, creative and innovative building materials companies to address these most pressing opportunities through a combination of proven business models, financial capital and experienced executives.

Since joining PCA in 2006, I have worked with world-class professionals focused on sustainability (new and old) with leading contractors and progressive designers as chairman/CEO of two PCA firms: Stone Profiles and Sensibuilt Building Solutions, and as an advisor to other highly profitable environmentally friendly PCA ventures. In addition, I was recently elected to the Board of Konarka Technologies, the world’s only manufacturer of flexible, low-cost, thin, light-activated Power Plastic® films. I hope to see the roofing industry take the lead through its newly formed Center for High Performance Roofing to bring solar solutions to a new generation of roofing and see my path come full circle back to roofing as a key element of sustainability in an energy hungry world.