The International Roofing Expo 2017 in Las Vegas proved to be the biggest show in the industry’s history. For 62 years, roofing manufacturers, suppliers, contractors and service providers have gathered annually in destination cities across the country to showcase and celebrate the business, but never had they turned out like this before.

Informa Exhibitions, the trade and event company that operates the annual show, noted attendance March 1-3 exceeded 11,200 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. That’s an increase of roughly 16 percent from the attendance at the 2016 IRE in Orlando (9,493); a jump of 17 percent from the 2015 IRE in New Orleans; and an increase of 15 percent from the last time IRE was in Sin City in 2014 (9,568).

The show also set recent records in terms of exhibitors representing 476 different companies among the 1,317 booths set up across 131,700 square feet in the newly-remodeled convention hall. The expanded convention center now boasts more than 2 million total square feet with nearly half of that comprised of contiguous exhibition space, prompting Show Director Tracy Garcia to say, “I hope you brought your walking shoes,” as she officially opened the show at the Keynote Event.

Fired Up

Retired Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman set the tone for the show’s opening day by delivering an inspirational and high-energy keynote speech. Drawing on his highly-decorated career piloting F-16 fighter jets over hostile territory for the United States Air Force, Waldman provided a glimpse of what it looked, sounded and felt like to do his job. His overarching theme: He was always strapped into the cockpit by himself … but never alone.

That’s because he had wingmen to rely on to watch his back, as he did theirs.

It’s not much different in the business world, said Waldman, who established noteworthy business careers as a consultant and hall of fame motivational speak after leaving aviation.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there in the business world right now,” he said. “Here’s what’s on the line for you in 2017; your brand. You have to get together and grow every single day. Nothing is handed to us.”

To relate the experience as a tool to motivate and uplift roofing contractors, Waldman spent the bulk of his time talking about commitment — which he broke down into four categories:

Commitment to Excellence – Combining your core values, passion, and ability to find the “meaning to your mission.” 

Commitment to the Mission – Always prepare and don’t “fly” by the seat of your pants when it comes to providing value to your customers and partners. 

Commitment to the Team – Realizing that you survive solo, but win together. Great teamwork is about having each other’s backs and building trust.

Commitment to Courage – At the end of the day, you can be passionate, extremely prepared and confident in your skills, and have a great team, but success is really about taking action.

Once deathly afraid of heights, Waldman said he was determined to become a pilot and fly the planes he idolized his father for working on as a commercial airline mechanic for decades in New York. His passion for his dream was greater than his fear, which all business owners or contractors can relate to. 

He said he hoped roofing contractors walked away thinking about what they can do as individuals to re-commit themselves to the profession.

“Complacency kills,” he said. “I believe we have to earn our wings every day. Yesterday’s success doesn’t guarantee tomorrow’s success. We have to get out there and sweat, build, and grow.”

Big Winners

The IRE show floor was again abuzz with the latest and greatest advancements in roofing tools and technology.

“The educational sessions are always good, but we always find some product or new technology at the show that’ll help our company deliver a better roof installation to our customers,” said Pat Butcher, co-founder and owner of Butcher & Butcher Construction, of Rochester Hills, Mich. “That’s why we’re here.”

Traffic at the designated Product Showcase was heavy on the show’s first day. Among the visitors were a panel of industry professionals acting as judges who — using a criteria based on innovation, productivity, and cost-effectiveness — submitted ballots to determine the best new products. In a departure from previous years, they selected first-place winners in four separate categories. The 2017 winners were:

Best Sustainable Product

316L Stainless Steel Ultimate Pipe Flashing - Lifetime Tool &          Building Products LLC;

Best Residential Product

D.I. Revolution 2.0 - D.I. Roof Seamers;

Best Commercial Product

ColorSnap - AceClamp PMC Industries;

Best New Product

Leading Edge Safety - AB-02;

The awards weren’t limited to products. For the second straight year, a team of construction management students from the University of Florida won the third annual Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress (RIAP) Student Competition at the show.

Team Captain Caleb Strauss, who also competed in last year’s event, led teammates William Foster, Schaffer Weeks and Forrest Wilson from the M. E. Rinker, Sr. School of Construction Management in Gainesville, Fla., through another standout presentation.

The six teams were asked to create a company bid on a roof installation project on the newly built T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Each team had to research the project, review the plans and specifications, and assemble a full estimate and proposal to submit a qualified bid package. They submitted written proposals and gave a maximum 15-minute presentation before a panel of industry judges at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center’s North Hall. The presentations were followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer period. All presentations were open to the public.

Working under the company name Orange South Construction, the Florida team’s presentation included walkthroughs on budgets, scheduling, inspections and a unique incentive program to keep workers on schedule. Their bid came in at just under $2.6 million.

A panel of seven judges from all sectors of the roofing industry mixed preliminary scores from the written proposals with scores from the oral presentations to determine a winner. The Florida team received a trophy and a $5,000 L.B. Conway Scholarship for their school.

“The competition is outstanding and the caliber of students participating is really good and getting better,” said John Geary, a former Firestone executive and repeat judge at the competition. 

Officials with RIAP and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) recognized the students at the annual NRCA awards ceremony during the show. Also winning big that night was Antis Roofing & Waterproofing, of Irvine, Calif., which received the prestigious 1st Place CNA/NRCA Community Involvement Award, the Roofing Industry Alliance for Progress’ Most Valuable Player Award and the Best of the Best Award.

Antis received the recognition, in part, due to its continued commitment to philanthropy and social responsibility. The company donates hundreds of hours of time and financial support to non-profits, including Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House. The company promptly donated the $7,500 cash prize to its Antis Foundation.

“Philanthropy is the core of our company’s story and mission,” said Charles Antis, company founder and CEO. “We are deeply honored to receive an award that celebrates our positive impact in the community, at this significant event with our peers in the industry.”


Giving Back

The roofing industry as a whole gave back to the local Las Vegas community and others in need around the country as well during the show.

Dozens of roofing professionals from around the country again arrived a day early in Las Vegas to volunteer as part of the 8th annual IRE Community Service Day. Led by main sponsor Sika Sarnafil, the group helped improve homes in disrepair in nearby Henderson.

One home received an entirely new roof. Another homeowner, Somphone Hughes, received new landscaping, exterior paint, a new wooden fence and other much-needed safety improvements to the home she moved into shortly after coming to the United States from Laos in 1980. Both she and her daughter were overwhelmed by the size of  the volunteer group and what they accomplished in less than a day.

“We were not expecting something as large as this. It is very surprising to see so many people willing to help,” said Toune Luangkhot, Hughes’ daughter. 

SRS Distribution Inc. also continued its successful tradition of fundraising for the Raise the Roof Foundation by hosting its fourth-annual — and largest — customer and supplier hospitality event at IRE.

Eager classic rock fans and music lovers in general crowded into the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay to see Eagle legend Joe Walsh perform for a good cause.

The event was open to all SRS customers and supplier partners, and proceeds went directly to the SRS foundation, which was established in 2012 as a way to give back.

The foundation supports a handful of non-profit organizations that share the company’s mission of supporting disaster relief efforts, military veterans, and community programs across the country. This year specifically focused on Minuteman Disaster Response, a non-profit comprised of emergency first responders that aid victims of national disasters.

Before Walsh took the stage, the SRS team hosted an impromptu auction and sold two electric guitars autographed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member for $18,000 apiece, said Rich Ross, SRS’s director of marketing.

In all, the concert and unique phone-texting contribution program helped SRS raise more than $94,000, which the company intends to match. The total shattered the anticipated fundraising goal of $75,000 and last year’s contributions of $50,000.

“We have to give credit to having an Eagles legend on stage, but there were a lot of people there because they have a passion for charity and music, and they realize the work we’re doing with the foundation,” Ross said. “It’s going to be very interesting and a challenge to top it next year.”

Donations may still be made online at