As I was saying …

Welcome to the 2011 International Roofing Expo®

If it's true, as it surely is, that every large roofing project is a business-survival gamble, there is no better place for the industry to assemble than in Las Vegas.

This is especially true, it seems to me, in the context of the past two years, which have seen the industry go from robust to moribund without even a brief stop at mediocre. Or as a longtime member recently and much more succinctly described the state of the industry: "It sucks."

The roofing business is arguably less risky than, say, playing craps. But with the onslaught of new federal regulations and building code requirements, putting your company's assets on the come line doesn't seem all that crazy anymore.

By the end of 2011, the industry will have trained signalers and riggers how to use cranes, derricks and even roof hoists. It will have embarked on new fall-protection training programs for nearly all steep-slope applications, having been told slide guards no longer are acceptable. It will have continued its work in training "renovators" who may contact lead paint.

A new green building code, barring an extraordinary industrywide effort, will add more roof insulation and reflectivity requirements. And it will mandate such creative things as having all building materials manufactured within 500 miles of a building's location.

The new Congress will, I think, be less anxious to spend money than the previous one. Let me rephrase that: The new Congress will be less likely to spend money. Congresses always are anxious to spend. But the congressional agenda will be muted: Big new initiatives will grow less likely the closer we get to 2012.

In 2011, roofing professionals will continue to learn how to survive, even prosper, in down markets. They do that by revisiting their business models; learning how to market and sell; and maintaining great relationships with their customers. No secrets here—just hard work.

Las Vegas famously advises that things that happen there should stay there. There is obvious merit to the advice. However, it's also true the IRE, perhaps uniquely, offers noncompeting peers the chance to share information and learn from one another. Knowledge gained that way can't be left behind.

So welcome to the roofing industry's largest North American gathering. Enjoy the experience, and learn from others—especially those who have managed to thrive in difficult times. Keep the company's assets safely at home. And don't draw to an inside straight.

Bill Good is NRCA's executive vice president.


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