If there was any question whether organizers of the International Roofing Expo (IRE) could build on last year’s unprecedented success in Nashville, consider the query answered. The 2020 IRE in Dallas last month was the industry’s biggest and best show yet, with more than 540 exhibitors across 170,000 square feet of exhibition space at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Officials with Informa Markets, the exhibition and events company that produces IRE, said 17,060 people attended the show, far surpassing Nashville’s short-lived record of 14,295.

Those that made it to Dallas experienced a vast show floor with hundreds of engaging and interactive displays; dozens of well-attended educational sessions and seminars; and a seemingly unlimited number of memorable events — including a historic keynote speaker, exclusive rooftop tours, a presidential visit and a stellar performance by rock icons Journey.

“I’ve been in the business for 35 years and I haven’t been to one, so I feel like a little kid at Disney,” said Eddie Murton, of Paul Bange Roofing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “I think it’s awesome, and I’m hoping to learn and see all of it.”

Diversity Dominates

Among the themes that emerged from the show was the increased importance of diversity in the roofing industry. It started before the show even opened when more than 300 women from across all segments of the industry attended the third annual National Women in Roofing (NWIR) Day on Feb. 2. The all-day event provided both formal and informal opportunities for women in the industry to connect, learn and mentor one another.

Themed after racing, “turbo boost” sessions similar to TED Talks were held throughout the day where attendees learned the tricks of the trades and the secrets to success, whether it was communications, career development, mentoring or the latest technology advancements.

Once lunch was over, the ladies attended breakout sessions to address any burning questions they had about specific issues. Topics ranged from general financial advice to product demonstrations and using social media for branding. This included a fast-paced “pit stop” breakout session that addressed multiple facets of being a roofing professional.

Xochitl Arango, owner of The Roofing Lady in Long Beach, Calif., was among those in attendance, having received the 2020 NEWS Scholarship from NWIR. She was impressed by the wide range of topics covered, including emotional intelligence and women-specific roofing safety gear.

“It’s been great, a lot of educational information that I believe is going to help me as a woman do better in the industry,” she said.

At the end of the event, Heidi Ellsworth, one of NWIR’s founding members, was named the first to receive its WORLD Award, created to honor a woman who has provided outstanding contributions to the industry.

The emphasis on diversity continued on the first day of the show as Charlotte Jones, executive vice president and chief brand officer of the Dallas Cowboys, became the IRE’s first female keynote speaker. Rather than give a formal speech, Jones — who oversees all business operations and strategies involving the team’s trademark star — 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.

She said the key to the franchise’s on- and off-the-field success was establishing tradition, competition, entertainment, business and innovation as the pillars the team would be built around. It’s something roofers can emulate 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 women into the field with NWIR.

“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.

Strategies on how to get more women on the rooftop was also the topic of a panel discussion featuring several NWIR members who emphasized the need for training, networking and recruiting opportunities geared for women, and clear reporting guidelines for workers feeling they’re treated unfairly.

Hilary Morgan, a partner at Cotney Construction Law, said a strict reporting system can help attract women to the field because they’ll feel safer in a male-dominated industry. It’s just one example of how women can generally improve the professionalism in any roofing company, or as moderator Jennifer Stone colorfully put it: “When you put a woman on a crew, men stop pissin’ in the drains.”

The discussion also addressed hazing female employees whether in the office or on the rooftop, jobsite safety, and the importance of employers to encourage the women in their offices to try something new.

Premier Products

Seeing and trying something new wasn’t difficult on the show floor with dozens of new products on display in the New Product Pavilion. Unlike previous years when it was up to a select few expert judges, all show attendees — whether they’re seasoned industry pros, new to roofing or somewhere in between — had the opportunity to help select the best product, service or innovation on display in Dallas.

The following products were declared winners by online voters:

“This feels fantastic!” said Craig Charlton, director of Australia-based Lock Jaw Ladder Grip company, upon receiving the award on the show floor. “It’s been such a rush to see so many people respond to a new safety product. My father and I made this product for the everyday worker to stay safe and to see many of them stopping by to tell us how they’re using it is really gratifying.”

Another product launched at the show was GAF’s Timberline HDZ, which features a new fusing technology that allows for a much larger nailing area, and carries the industry’s first no-limit wind warranty. GAF also dedicated a large portion of their show-floor exhibit to its Community Matters initiative that partners with roofing contractors and several nonprofit organizations to help communities deal with disaster relief and other housing needs.

“The displays are certainly impressive. It took me half an hour to get out of the GAF area,” said roofing contractor Kelly O’Brien.

Other products making their debut at the show included: F-WAVE’s REVIA™ Hybrid™ Solar Roof Tiles, which feature revolutionary premium-looking tiles that harvest both photovoltaic and thermal energy; and IKO introduced EdgeSeal, a double-sided, self-sealing adhesive starter roll designed to bond shingles to the roof deck at the perimeter, often the roof’s most vulnerable area.

High Honors

Several former, current and future roofing contractors and other industry professionals left Dallas with a little hardware as well.

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) named Mark Gaulin, founder of MAGCO Inc., and founding member of Tecta America Corp., the recipient of its 73rd annual J.A. Piper Award — the organization’s highest honor.

“I am truly flattered and honored to be recognized by my peers and the industry with this award, and I am proud to be a part of this great industry,” Gaulin said as he accepted the award during a formal ceremony at the convention center.

Also honored that night were the NRCA’s annual Gold Circle projects and MVP award winners, as well as five students from Texas A&M University that won the sixth annual Roofing Alliance Construction Management Student Competition. The team presented the best proposal to reroof the Ford Center, the practice facility of the Dallas Cowboys in Frisco, Texas originally installed by KPost Roofing & Waterproofing. A panel of industry experts combined the oral presentation scores with written proposal scores from five schools. This was the first year A&M presented at the IRE.

“It’s pretty crazy,” said team captain Tyler Stivers. “It’s a lot of work and it all turned out to be worth it, and we’re very proud of our guys.”

Mark Standifer, from King of Texas Roofing Company, LP, in Grand Prairie, Texas, served as team mentor. The winning team received a $5,000 scholarship, and the Colorado State team received a $2,500 scholarship for finishing second. The Roofing Alliance recognized Samuel Short of Auburn University as the Best Individual Presenter with a $500 gift card.

All the students had the opportunity to go up on the Ford Center roof to get a hands-on look at the project they were “bidding” on for the competition.

“It was absolutely amazing to be able to put what we’ve been working on towards being able to see it,” Stivers said.

The Asphalt Roofing Manufacturer Association (ARMA) also used the show floor to deliver its 2020 Excellence in Asphalt Roofing Awards. The Gold Award was presented to Everlast Exteriors of Omaha, Neb., for the historic Molly Jenkins Carriage House. Originally built in the 1920s, the house’s current owners chose asphalt for its durability and to stay true to the style and look of the era.

The project was complicated but well worth the hard work, said Everlast Exteriors’ Brent Hall.

“This feels very good because in an industry dominated by sales, it’s good to have quality workmanship recognized,” he said.

Finding enough quality projects was hardly the problem, as ARMA received 82 submissions from around the continent.

“We continue to be impressed by the caliber of the submissions,” said Reed Hitchcock, ARMA’s executive vice president. “Contractors across North America are using asphalt for their roofing projects in innovative ways, delivering superior results and resulting in happy building and home owners.”

Giving Back

As they have in past years, IRE attendees left a mark in Dallas by giving back to the community. The formal effort began with the 11th Annual Community Service Day, made possible by the event’s primary sponsor Sika Sarnafil, and several other companies, including Carlisle Construction Materials; CentiMark Innovative Roofing and Flooring Solutions; ICP Building Solutions Group; KPost Roofing & Waterproofing; and OMG Roofing Products.

Dozens of roofing contractors and industry professionals helped residents like Betty and Gary Collins.

“This is a big help. A blessing really,” Betty said as volunteers started working on the interior of her home. Two rooms were severely damaged by water that leaked through a deteriorating roof every time it rained.

Crews from KPost’s residential division completely replaced the roof last month, and IRE volunteers began working on replacing the ceiling and sheet rock shortly after arriving.

Save the Date

What: 2021 International Roofing Expo (IRE)
When: Feb. 24-26, 2021
Where: Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas
Who: Roofing contractors, vendors and industry professionals
Notables: The roofing industry’s biggest show returns to Las Vegas for the first time since 2017, where a then-record 11,273 people converged on Sin City. After successive years of surpassing that record attendance, plans are already in the works to draw thought-provoking speakers, showcase the latest and most innovative products, and create game-changing networking opportunities for roofing contractors of any size, from any market. Look for RC’s continuing coverage at www.roofingcontractor.com/IRE.

Also look for: A new roster of industry leaders and experts hosting educational sessions to be unveiled shortly. Housing reservations may be made online beginning in May. Online attendee registration opens in September at www.theroofingexpo.com.

Another group of volunteers were busy with multiple projects at the John Quincy Adams Elementary School. While classes remained in session, the volunteers built storage sheds for the revamped school garden, chicken coops, a fountain and other features that will eventually become an outdoor classroom.

The roofing industry’s generosity continued into the SRS Foundation’s annual auction and concert fundraiser, featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Journey for an exclusive show just weeks before they headed out on a cross-country tour. But before they took the stage, SRS Distribution’s Dan Tinker fired up the crowd by introducing special guest — former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Standing before a crowd of roughly 3,000 people, President Bush thanked members of the roofing industry for their efforts to keep the U.S. economy moving in the right direction, while also giving back to those less fortunate.

“For those of you not from Texas, welcome to the promised land!” he said. “Thank you for working hard to make our country great.”

He then thanked the roofing contractors and other industry professionals in the room that are committed to hiring military veterans.

The energized crowd responded with cheers and chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” Many also contributed to the cause, helping the SRS Foundation raise thousands of dollars that will support veterans and their families during a live auction that included signed Journey memorabilia and a signed book of President Bush’s artwork — which sold for $33,000.

Visit RC's IRE page for exclusive photo galleries and additional coverage.

RC Editorial Intern Addison Franklin contributed to this report.