WASHINGTON — With intense partisanship, global conflict, and persistent inflation — not to mention a presidential election on the horizon — Congress has much to consider in 2023, so how does the roofing industry rise above the din to ensure its concerns are heard?
Having nearly 250 roofing professionals head to Capitol Hill to speak in a unified voice about critical issues like vocational education funding and immigration reform is a good start.
The National Roofing Contractors Association’s 2023 annual “Roofing Day," which took place on April 18-19, saw professionals nationwide descend on Washington, D.C., to speak with congressional representatives about the industry's potential solutions to those problems.
This year, the NRCA focused on three areas: a chronic workforce shortage, tax reform and support for the Department of Energy.
“These issues were chosen by the NRCA Roofing Day Advisory Committee [because] they’re issues that unite our entire industry – manufacturers, contractors, distributors, consultants … so that we can speak with one voice on Capitol Hill,” said Duane Musser, NRCA vice president of governmental affairs.
During the two-day event, attendees were briefed on several issues to better speak with senators and representatives, including:
Workforce Shortage Solutions
The NRCA is asking for a multi-pronged approach to the ongoing labor shortage: increase Perkins Career and Technical Education State Grant funding, improve portions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and support immigration reform, including the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act to establish a new visa category.
Main Street Tax Certainty Act
This act makes the Section 199A deduction permanent. The abatement, known as the qualified business income deduction, allows pass-through business owners to deduct up to 20% of their QBI in determining tax liability. NRCA officials say the tax break, which sunsets in 2025, would cause individually- and family-owned Main Street businesses to pay significantly higher taxes.
Funding for the Department of Energy’s Building Technical Office
This office develops, demonstrates and accelerates the adoption of cost-effective technologies for energy-efficient residential and commercial buildings. Roofing companies will use this technology to build high-performance buildings. The NRCA encouraged attendees to support $348 million in funding for the office, which works closely with the construction industry on developing building codes and practices.
“Keep in mind, with inflation the way it is, we need an increase even more now,” the NRCA's Musser said. “We’re competing against many other groups for funding.”
The NRCA hosted multiple presentations from lawmakers and consultants to energize its attendees. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) discussed issues surrounding the debt ceiling and inflation, while Bill Wehrum of Wehrum Environmental Law addressed environmental concerns. Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Consulting spoke on political trends, followed by a panel of congressional staffers giving pointers on making the most of the day’s meetings.
Roofing contractors took the advice to heart, sharing real-world stories with congressional staff members about turning down work because they simply lack the manpower or losing workers because they are undocumented. One participant, Dean Jagusch, principal of Wagner Roofing Company in Hyattsville, Md., addressed the effect of labor shortages impacting his business and was glad to meet with representatives to discuss it.
“I think it’s really good to be at the ground floor where decisions are made,” said Jagusch. “Being able to be a part of [discussions], we can actually be a part of the decisions being made.”
While most attendees spoke with staff, congressional members like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) made time to speak directly with attendees amidst 25 congressional sessions on the Hill.
Montey Gaisser Jr., the owner of MG Roofing in Muscle Shoals, Ala., said divisive topics like immigration could be tough to talk about but knows it’s important to keep coming back to D.C. to represent the roofing industry.
“You get to see a bit of the inside workings and how things really go down, and to me that’s gratifying,” he said. “We get to do something positive to help out the industry.”
Along with contractors, distributors and manufacturers stepped up to speak on behalf of the industry, such as Will Lorenz, president of General Coatings Manufacturing in Fresno, Calif., who has attended every Roofing Day.
“I think it’s valuable,” Lorenz said. “We can’t be bashful or shy; we’ve got to get in front of them … for us, the biggest issue is if there’s sufficient labor to install the products out there.”
Jennifer Trapane, business development manager of Metal Sales, has also attended Roofing Day since its inception and encouraged anyone on the fence to participate, saying the NRCA does a great job preparing its members.
“We have seen some positive results from it; certainly, we’d like to see more, and that’s why we keep coming,” she said. “It is an investment on the part of everyone who attends, but we have to keep at it in order to make our voices heard.”