DALLAS — The roofing industry’s biggest show may have just gotten bigger. After consecutive years of record attendance, the International Roofing Expo’s (IRE) return to North Texas for the first time in roughly 20 years was expected to be a big draw — and didn’t disappoint.

The show floor at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is set up for 542 exhibitors in over 170,000 square-feet of space featuring hundreds of the latest products and innovations the industry has to offer.

“The old adage is everything is bigger in Texas, and this year is no exception,” said Show Director Ray Giovine while welcoming hundreds of roofing contractors and other industry professionals to the keynote address Tuesday morning. “As of this morning, it looks like attendance is going to beat last year in Nashville, which was our biggest show ever (14,295 attendees) so we’re really excited about that.”

Organizers and the crowd were also excited to make a little history by welcoming Charlotte Jones, executive vice president and chief brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys, as the IRE’s first female keynote speaker. Rather than a formal speech, Jones sat with Brad Sham, the longtime voice of the Dallas Cowboys radio broadcasts, and shared how she got her start with the organization and where it stands today.

Jones, daughter of Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, oversees all business operations and strategies involving the team’s trademark star, and helped grow it into one of the most recognizable and profitable brands around the globe. It started with one simple instruction from her father shortly after purchasing the team 31 years ago: whatever you do, don’t tarnish the vaunted star logo.

“That was the only piece of advice he gave me but that statement meant everything,” she explained. “What he had purchased and became part of was bigger than the organization itself. It was about the heritage, the tradition, the legacy and the power of the brand to connect with people.”

Jones said the key was defining the pillars that the entire franchise’s future would be built around: tradition, competition, entertainment, business and innovation. It’s something leaders of businesses in any industry can do to elevate their success.

“The Dallas Cowboys aren’t a brand, they’re a culture, a lifestyle,” she said. “They’re meant to inspire people to go beyond their comfort zone and reach a higher level of performance. It’s about making that emotional connection with your fans, wherever they are.”

Jones also praised the work the roofing industry is doing to change its perception among consumers, and the importance of bringing more diversity — and women in particular — into the field through organizations like National Women in Roofing.

“The alliance you’ve created in this industry and that outlet for people to have to inspire each other, build up each other, is really special,” she said.

Incoming National Roofing Contractors Association Chairman Rod Petrick said he’s looking forward to keeping the momentum going throughout the year and even at next year’s IRE in Las Vegas.

“It’s two shows in a row where we’re setting records and I believe the industry is energized,” he said. “I’m excited to hopefully get even more space and more exhibitors.”

Managing Editor Chris Gray contributed to this report.