LAS VEGAS — Hangovers might be a common illness here, but the roofing industry appears to be shaking off any recession-related queasiness if the attendance at this year’s International Roofing Expo is any guide.
The never-sleeping, brightly lit southern Nevada gambling mecca was a good location for this year’s show. Total attendance for the Feb. 24-26 conference was 9,568, a 13 percent increase from the 2013 San Antonio show.
It was enough to make officials with Hanley Wood, which owns and operates the expo, pretty happy.
“With a fresh sense of optimism and excitement, the 2014 International Roofing Expo drew the largest attendance in the show’s history,” said show director Tracy Garcia. “In addition, the trade show floor was the largest since 2008.”
The larger attendance made many exhibitors pleased as well.
“The number of attendees surpassed our expectations and we made some great contacts,” said Karyn Slifka, a marketing coordinator at Novagard Solutions.
There were 426 exhibitors taking up 1,045 booths at this year’s expo, a 6 percent increase in booth space from the show a year ago.
“The 2014 IRE offered the perfect venue for us to reconnect with existing customers and engage with new ones,” said Karen Edwards, marketing director at software maker EagleView Technologies. “Our booth was busy from show open to close and the attendees were the decision-makers that we wanted to reach.”
Nicholas Bryditzki of Sentinel Solar Roof Pumps had similar comments.
“This was an outstanding show,” Bryditzki said. “For a small manufacturing company, it gave us great exposure and we were able to make some significant contacts.”
As in past years, organizers dedicated certain portions of the show floor to certain industry segments, grouping exhibitors together. The Metal Marketplace, an area dedicated to metal roofing machinery and related products, had 83 booths. Another specialty section, the Technology and Business Services Pavilion, took up 44 booths.
As in past years, the expo attracted a large number of international attendees as well as people from throughout the U.S. The countries most represented besides the United States were Canada, Mexico, Japan, Denmark, Australia, Columbia, China, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Ecuador, France, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Within the U.S., California, Nevada, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Michigan sent the most attendees.
An estimated 35 percent of those who came to the expo were first-time visitors to the show. That included Phillip M. Conroy, a project manager at Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal in Wheeling, W.Va.
“I thought the overall quality of the show and the courses offered were very good, while the exhibitors were very helpful and informative,” Conroy said. This was my first year attending the show and the trip was definitely worth my while.”
Bill Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, which holds its annual meeting during the expo and is its official sponsor, said his group could not have been happier with the turnout.
“The 2014 IRE was the busiest and most successful show in recent history,” Good said. “The roofing industry continues on its path of economic recovery with a positive buzz in the air like hasn’t been felt in several years.”
Apart from the trade show floor, organizers booked a number of educational seminars and special events, including Feb. 26 keynote speaker Frank Abagnale, the famous imposter who was profiled in the book and movie, “Catch Me if You Can.”
This year’s educational lineup was a full one, with 42 seminars on topics such as software, safety and employee relations. Organizers said 5,807 seminars were bought by attendees, a 45 percent improvement from last year.
“I thought this year’s event was outstanding and especially found the educational offerings to be strong in content,” said Chad Collins, president at Georgia-based Bone Dry Roofing Co. “The attendance alone in the educational sessions spoke volumes towards the overall participation at this years’ show.”
Brian Moore, a residential project manager at Roofmasters Roofing and Sheet Metal, said the seminars were one of his favorite parts of the show.
“All of the classes I attended were very informative and we have already started implementing some of the information that we learned in class,” Moore said. “In my opinion this show surpassed my expectation.”
One well-attended session was a Feb. 27 one on using technology in construction. Titled “Technology: Does it Work?,” organizers brought a panel of executives from KPost Co., a large roofing company whose operations include a sheet metal shop. The Dallas-based contractor has worked on projects such as major convention centers, museums and stadiums.
Technology has really changed the way KPost operates, the panelists said. Jayne Williams, the company’s chief financial and safety officer, pointed out that 20 years ago, she had to take a class to learn how to operate a computer mouse.
Today, the company makes extensive use of technology, Williams said.
“Technology will help you” control costs, she said. “It also makes us more money.”
And while technology is everywhere at KPost, it is no substitute for communication, she added.
“Communication is key,” she said. “It’s all about communication.”
Another panelist, Tracey Donels, agreed. Donels is the company’s service manager. He said switching from manual time cards to electronic ones saved the company a lot of cash and helped them better keep track of staff.
“Time can be put in anywhere, from any device,” he said.
Instead of punching in at a clock, workers can use a small laptop, smartphone or tablet such as the iPad. Donels said he especially likes the miniature version of Apple’s iPad.
“The iPad is almost foolproof,” he said.
The software KPost uses is called AboutTime. Investing in it paid off quickly, said KPost President Steve Little, who acted as moderator for the session.
“It saved us about a thousand hours a year,” Little said.
The panel then turned to estimating work. The job has come a long way from the era of blueprints drawn by hand and rolled up and carried from the jobsite to the main office.
“It’s almost become a paperless process,” said Kelly Lea, the company’s vice president of estimating.
KPost uses a software called the Edge.
“It allows us to get more bids out and to be more successful,” said Keith Post, the founder and owner of KPost Co. “We put everything in ‘the cloud’ now, which kind of freaked me out — not being able to touch” documents.
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