Roofing contractors from America’s heartland converged on Kansas City, Mo. for the 66th annual Midwest Roofing Contractors Association Conference and Expo from Nov. 11-13, 2015 at the Kansas City Convention Center. Located in the center of downtown Kansas City, the event benefitted from the energy and goodwill still simmering from the celebration of the Kansas City Royals’ victory in the World Series just a week prior.
With a theme “Strong Roots, Bright Future,” the conference featured a variety of speakers that demonstrated the MRCAs’ strong heritage and leadership, and educational sessions that drew a large number of particularly young contractors together to learn, network and engage with industry veterans on ways to improve their businesses. The show floor featured more than 100 exhibitors and included special demonstrations of the some of the latest roofing products currently on or coming to the market.
Helping the Hungry
On a sun-soaked morning with a spring-like feel, roughly two dozen roofing contractors and industry suppliers boarded a mini-bus and headed south from downtown Kansas City, Mo. to give a little back to the community hosting the 66th Annual Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA) Conference and Expo.
The group was comprised of members of the MRCA’s Young Contractors Council (YCC), an organization designed for roofing professionals under age 40 to network, share best practices and grow their businesses. Conversations on the 25-minute drive ranged mostly from sales and products to new movies and golf scores as the group passed by urban neighborhoods and rural communities in greater Kansas City.
But the talk turned a bit more serious upon arrival at the Harvesters Community Food Network headquarters. The non-profit organization is the regional food bank that provides food and household necessities to thousands of residents across 26 counties in western Missouri and neighboring Kansas.
The 200,000 square-foot facility is part warehouse and part office/activity center where thousands of volunteers help sort, organize and box food on a monthly basis. Harvesters feeds roughly 141,500 people every month and its officials say they rely heavily on the hard work of volunteers to help circulate the 40 million pounds of food annually that’s needed in the area’s urban, suburban and rural communities.
The warehouse resembles a standard Costco interior, just without the shoppers. Forklifts weave in and out of designated driving lanes between large steel racks that stand several stories high and are filled with packed pallets of non-perishable food or fresh fruits and vegetables imperfect for sale but still safe to eat.
Fueled by the staggering statistics of the area’s growing hunger problem and images of Harvesters clients from a stirring promotional video, the roofing group took its spot beside church groups and Boy Scout troops to start their work.
Not only does it feel good to give back, but the roofing industry as a whole has a lot to gain by participating in similar initiatives, said outgoing MRCA President Larry Marshall before they boarded the bus.
“Our industry has had its challenges in public perception but we’re on the right track and heading in a positive direction. This is part of that,” said Marshall, owner of L. Marshall Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc. in Glenview, Ill. “It’s a bigger deal than you’d imagine.”
The majority of roofers broke up into smaller groups surrounding large boxes filled with raw sweet potatoes and started sorting them into bags that would eventually make it to pantry shelves. Others helped breakdown boxes and completed specific tasks designated by Harvesters staff.
Members of the YCC, many of whom met for the very first time, shared a bonding experience that was referred to repeatedly over the next three days of the conference.
“It’s always good to surround yourself with like-minded contractors and take some of the focus off of us a little bit and do something for somebody else,” said Chase Lecklider, owner of Chase Restoration in Indianapolis.
“We, as individuals, don’t have a perception problem, we just want to give back,” Lecklider continued. “But the industry as a whole does have this perception issue, and if doing things like this helps improve that, great.”
Participants at the MRCA conference also found ways to give back to the industry by supporting the MRCA Foundation. More than $44,600 was raised during the organization’s fourth annual silent and live auction on the eve of the expo.
Many of the attendees wore flapper dresses, zoot suits and tuxedos to fit the ‘roaring 20s’ theme for the evening, which accented nicely with the location – the historic Marriott Muehlebach Tower lobby. The building, which opened in 1915, hosted numerous celebrities including every American president between Theodore Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, and served as a pillar of Kansas City social life for roughly six decades.
Participants bid on a host of items ranging from roofing products and sporting equipment to weekend getaways and tickets to special events. The live auction offerings were just as enticing and punctuated with entertainment by experienced auctioneers Bill Baley, of C.I. Services Inc., and Greg Bloom of Allied Building Products.
When they weren’t focused on the auction, those in attendance mingled between the historic bar and traditional Kansas City barbeque meal selections with a jazz quintet playing in the background.
Proceeds from the event will help fund the MRCA’s educational and professional development programs aimed at improving the quality of the roofing industry and how roofing contractors operate their companies.
Funds will also be used to support industry-related research to help roofers make educated decisions that help their businesses grow. Recent examples include the Baseline Study Water-based Adhesives, which set out to determine the fundamental weight loss or dry-down behavior of water-based adhesives and its rate of dehydration under varying temperatures and humidity levels.
This research included data collection from the field and a series of lab tests that specifically targeted the differences between temperature and dew point.
Another example is the recent Reflection Study that compared roof membranes in the field for environmental factors, including energy efficiency.
“It’s an important part of what we do to help move the industry forward and we’re very thankful for all the continued support,” said Foundation President Randy Adams, of R. Adams Roofing in Indianapolis.
A True Royal
As a child, Frank White and his brothers did whatever they had to do to play baseball from morning to nightfall in the summer. Even when they didn’t have a ball. That’s when the heads of their younger sister’s unused dolls came in handy.
“We’d stuff them in bags, wrap them with electrical tape and go play,” the former major leaguer told attendees at the MRCA Conference’s keynote luncheon. “It wasn’t until years later — after I said something in an interview — that my sisters told me they didn’t think that was very funny. But we did everything we could just to play baseball.”
That love and commitment to the game became the foundation that he used to build a career that ultimately reached the sport’s pinnacle. White, who moved to Kansas City from Mississippi when he was 6 years old, played in more than 2,300 games over 18 major league seasons with the hometown Royals.
A smooth-fielding second baseman, White earned six consecutive Gold Glove awards for defensive excellence from 1977 to 1982, and eight overall before retiring in 1990. The five-time All Star was a key member of the 1985 squad that won the World Series — the franchise’s only championship prior to last fall’s team.
“I’ve never seen so many people in my life,” White said about the 800,000 fans that participated in the victory parade downtown just days before the conference began. “This past World Series was off the charts. The crowds were unbelievable and if you had an opportunity to witness it all, it was a fun time for the city and everyone involved.”
After brief stints as a professional coach and team broadcaster, White joined Precision Roofing, a commercial and residential contractor that serves communities in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. He specifically works with the sales team in marketing the company and generating new business. White also hosts a landing page on the company website where he answers questions on roofing, baseball or other topics that come directly from customers and fans.
He explained that while he’s always loved the game, he got a late start in playing organized baseball and, luckily, was among eight local players selected for a prestigious baseball academy as a young adult. That’s where he learned and practiced the fundamentals of the game, and began to visualize his dream of making the major leagues becoming a reality.
But it wasn’t easy.
“When you do something over and over again, six days a week, then you’re going to get good at it. But when you get to major leagues it becomes about ‘what can I do to stay here?’” he said.
In addition to the grind of playing roughly 150 of a 162-game season — plus playoff competition, White said he spent his off days on the handball court mastering his hand-eye coordination, and carrying tires to strengthen his legs and back.
That drive and expectation for consistent production, along with the brute physical strength needed to do the job are probably the two biggest similarities between baseball and roofing, he said.
“When I started working with Precision Roofing, I was there more as a guy learning how to sell roofs, and help measure, put together proposals, coring and all that good stuff,” he described. “You get an appreciation for all that goes into it.”
After a while, the executive team took him out of the field and moved White to marketing, which he said he was really happy about.
“I didn’t mind going on (low-slope) roofs,” said White, now 65. “There’s a lot I like about roofing, but I wouldn’t want to be that guy tearing it off and putting it back on. I’m too old. Like baseball, it’s one of those things where if you put in the time and get to know it very well you can do very well.”
Officers and Awards
The MRCA elected its new slate of officers and directors for 2016. They include:
- President Bob Schenkel of CL Shust Company in Ft. Wayne, Ind.
- Immediate Past President/Chairman of the Board Larry Marshall of L. Marshall Roofing and Sheet Metal Inc. in Glenview, Ill.
- First Vice President Mark Langer of Langer Roofing in Milwaukee
- Second Vice President and Treasurer Greg Sprague of Sprague Roofing in Lincoln, Neb.
- Secretary Kevin Gwaltney of Diamond Roofing in Dodge City, Kan.
- Foundation President Steve Little of KPost Company in Dallas
The MRCA honored several award winners at its membership meeting prior to White’s keynote address. Among the more notable honorees were EagleView Technologies and Leading Edge Safety, which both received the Industry Innovation Award for new products in the areas of safety, technology, and efficiency that have significantly improved the well-being of the roofing contractor.
EagleView’s Construct program launched earlier this year and the cloud-based software platform is fully integrated into the current EagleView workflow. The MRCA recognized Leading Edge Safety for its Integrated Lightning Protection system.
Bill Good, CEO of the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), received the James Q. McCawley Award for his nearly three-decades of service to the NRCA and the industry as a whole. The McCawley Award is the most prestigious honor granted by the organization, and is given annually in recognition of the recipient’s longstanding devotion to the roofing industry.
“I’m surprised, honored and humbled,” Good said as he was honored on stage with past recipients. “One of the very best things about this job is that I get to work with incredible people, including the people in this room and other recipients of the award. This industry has been very good to me and I look forward to doing this for the rest of my professional life.”
The MRCA also presented its Safety Program Awards, which recognize MRCA member companies for their commitment to improving jobsite safety. The association honored one Platinum Award winner, 13 Gold Award winners, nine Silver Award winners and four Bronze Award winners. A complete list of winners will be available on the association’s website.
The MRCA will host its 67th Annual Conference from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. Visit www.mrca.org for more information.