Sometimes it’s hard to keep this column down to one topic.

Every time I speak with a roofing contractor lately, the topic of labor emerges as number one. In all my years in the roofing industry, the topic of labor has consistently been on top or near the top of the list.

As the economy continues to grow, there are more and more instances of labor shortages. The scary thing is, the economy really isn’t growing all that much. What are we going to do when things really heat up?

The only suggestion I have is, “Keep your powder dry.” You may be facing some even more daunting challenges in the future when it comes to finding and keeping great people on your team. Be prepared to make the changes you must to stay ahead of this still-emerging trend.

Next topic: solar. Gibraltar Industries recently announced a major investment in the solar market with the acquisition of a manufacturer of solar-panel racking systems. Their announcement cites Wolf Research LLC, who predicts that solar is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent over the next four years. While it remains a relatively small industry overall, the prospects for this kind of growth must be tempting.

Solar technologies continue to change, and if improvements to the solar-collecting media and storage systems keep going, there could be a fast shift to even more growth. If you’re not at least modestly involved in solar now, you may be left at the station when this train takes off.

Last topic: when it comes to what roofing contractors need to know to stay ahead of the competition and in front of emerging trends, they have a good number of tools at their disposal.

You’ll find plenty right here within the pages of this publication as well as on our website. Roofing Contractor is the official publication of the International Roofing Expo (IRE), the annual event that features the nation’s largest roofing trade show and a list of seminars covering nearly every topic in roofing. In addition, you have a number of local and national trade associations working every day on your behalf to improve the industry and provide you with the knowledge you need.

One of my personal favorites is the Best of Success conference, which will be held at the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix Sept. 21-22. Best of Success brings together some of the most talented and successful players in the roofing industry to share their knowledge on a variety of topics. This year, there will be seminars on sales, management, marketing, succession planning, labor (including working with Latinos), risk management and much more.

Best of Success provides an intimate setting that allows roofing contractors to share their personal experiences — both in the seminar setting, and in one-to-one interactions with the presenters, sponsors and fellow attendees. We manage to have a little fun, too.

I hope you will choose to join us in Phoenix. To learn more, visit pages 48-51 of this issue or