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An Industry Update With IRE & NRCA! Sponsored by Beacon Building Products - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

An Industry Update With IRE & NRCA! Sponsored by Beacon Building Products - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION
September 13, 2023 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Jared Ribble from NRCA, Brandi McElhaney and Rich Russo from IRE. You can read the interview below, listen to the podcast or watch the webinar.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Good morning. My name is Heidi Ellsworth, and this is Coffee Conversations, from RoofersCoffeeShop. This is one of the special ones we do every year. We're going to be talking about what's happening with NRCA, and also, what to expect from the International Roofing Expo. Everyone's excited about that coming up in February. So I want to say thank you very much for all of you being here today, and I want to say thank you to our sponsor, Beacon. Beacon is there. If everybody remembers last year at IRE, the cowboy hats. Big promotion. So you never know what's going to be coming around the corner with Beacon. And also a huge supporter of the NRCA. So thank you very much for being our sponsor of this Coffee Conversations today.

And for some housekeeping, as you all know, this is being recorded and will be available within 24 hours. And this is a conversation. So we want your chat. So the chat is open. Our producer, Megan Ellsworth, is in the background. And she's going to be chatting back and forth with everyone. So please tell us who you are, where you're from, what kind of business you have, and keep those questions coming. We're going to be taking questions, comments, thoughts, you name it, throughout the whole show. That's what makes us so fun. So thank you for being here today.

So we want to get started with introducing our esteemed panel. And I do have some sad news upfront. Due to a family emergency, Alison LaValley, who many of you know, is not able to be here today. But she's amazing, and you will see her at the IRE Show. Hey, Jared, if you can, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself, and tell everybody a little bit about what you do at NRCA?

Jared Ribble: Sure. Well, Jared Ribble, I'm the Vice President of Certification for NRCA. So anything ProCertification, you've probably heard about it. If you haven't, you need to know about it. I'm the ProCertification guy. So come talk to me about ProCertification. That is my main responsibility within NRCA.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. And so important. So we're going to talk a lot more about that in just a minute. But I want to introduce, people know Brandi. Brandi, you've been on the show before. We're so happy to have you back. You are just a beautiful face that everybody looks for at the show to, "What's going on?" And "What's happening?" So Brandi, can you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Informa.

Brandi McElhaney: Okay. I'm Brandi McElhaney, and I'm the senior conference manager for IRE. So I developed the conference program, both the regular conference program, as well as some show floor education. And I've been doing it over 20 years, so a long time. Thanks for having me.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I know, and I love it, because the shows only get better and better and better. And you are such a huge part of that, Brandi. And we're going to talk about community service, all the great things that the show does to just bring it to life. So thank you for being on here again.

Brandi McElhaney: Thanks for having me.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And then I'm really happy to introduce Rich Russo, who we've been working with for the last year. Relatively new to the IRE show, but bringing some amazing creative thoughts and planning. So Rich, welcome to the show, and please introduce yourself.

Rich Russo: Thank you, Heidi. Again, Rich Russo, and I am the show director for the International Roofing Expo. I've been with Informa for just about a year. This will be my second IRE coming up. I'm so excited to see it through a full-year cycle. So I'm certainly newer to the roofing industry, but I have about 25 years experience in the events and exhibition space. So looking forward to bringing some of those experiences to IRE.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Excellent. Welcome to the show. This is going to be excellent. You have a lot of great information for us. Everybody's wondering, what's happening with the IRE in 2024? So I just want to remind everybody, I see all the comments and hellos and "Where you're from?" in the chat. Keep it going. That is great, and ask questions as we go. We definitely want to make sure you are ready for not only being more involved with the NRCA, but to be ready to go to the IRE in February by the end of this hour. So make sure you get all your questions answered as we go along.

So let's start. We always like to start with the state of the union. State of the industry, what is happening with the National Roofing Contractors Association, really our guiding force within the roofing industry. And what's happened in this last year and what is some of the focus on. So Jared, would love for you to give us a little bit of that state of the industry, and where we're at right now.

Jared Ribble: Sure. Well, you've got this slide up, which is really perfect. You got the Association, SkillsUSA Roofing Day, ProCertification. The large umbrella that I see goes over top of this whole thing is workforce development. One of our industry's greatest problems is attracting and finding the really great talent that can put on our roofs. So when I look at these icons, really, it's all about workforce development.

And Heidi, I'm going to tell you just a quick story. I promise it relates, okay. I come from a roofing family. My dad was a roofing contractor. And I don't know, I was probably 10, 12 years old. My brother was mad at my dad about something. He was a teenager at the time. And I don't know what happened in their argument, but my brother, he just decided to cut straight to my dad's heart. And he says, "Well, you're just a roofer." It is true that my dad was a roofer, but it was that four-letter word that just wants to cut with the attitude of a spicy teenager. "You're just a roofer." Well, I could tell you that didn't go over too well with my dad.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I was going to say, knowing your dad, no.

Jared Ribble: No, no. "And I'm just a roofer? I'm just a roofer? I put the roof over your head, I feed you. I get you all this fancy, blah, blah, blah. Go stand out in the rain and tell me I'm just a roofer." Now, my dad didn't have a college degree. He was a roofer. But he was a professional, but he had nothing to stand up and say the proof and the evidence that he's a true and real professional. So everything we've got here, SkillsUSA, Roofing Day and ProCertification, all points to the fact that we need quality qualified workers, but we need to have evidence that they are in fact professional, true, skilled craftsmen.

So now I'm going to talk about ProCertification, because that's the end of the line of our workforce development. That is where an installer takes an assessment to prove that they do have, in fact, great quality skills. So we've got that. We've got that for all sorts of systems. And the latest ones are slate, which is really exciting to see these guys chisel slates around pipes, and service and maintenance technicians. So we've got these certifications where we can wave the flag. "I have a diploma. I am a true professional."

But what's really been cool about that is the butterfly effect that happens in DC and happens down into SkillsUSA. So now that we have this end goal certification, we are having trade school educators come in along and say, "Okay, now that you have that, we can start adding this curriculum into our trade schools." Because the states require some level of certification after you have your education at the trade school. So we for years have been complaining, bemoaning the fact that we can't get roofing into trade schools. We haven't had the certification that is required by states for the trade schools to actually put it in.

Now we've got it. And this last couple months ago, we finally had roofing represented at SkillsUSA. That's where trade schools send their kids to compete. And we had four roofers in Atlanta, four high school roofers in Atlanta competing to show off how great they are. And I'm excited that one of them was a female, and took fourth place.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, she was great.

Jared Ribble: So all genders being represented at the high school level, and we can now have that because we have the end game in place. So Roofing Day, that's where the whole industry comes together. All stakeholders of the roofing industry come together in one day, and meet with their government representatives, their senators, and their congressmen. Okay? That's where we all come together, under one main topic, and right now it's been workforce development. What can we do to make sure that we are honoring and helping the younger, the next generation come up into the trades? And of course, immigration is all wrapped up into that as well. So that's in a nutshell some of the big things that we're doing here at NRCA, and it's all around making sure that we have quality qualified workers coming into our industry.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: So I'm so excited about all of this, Jared, because we've been involved. We were at the SkillsUSA, we were broadcasting live from there. We've been so involved with ProCertification and a lot of when they're going in to get their certifications to do the hands-on work. And so really, when you're looking at this from an NRCA standpoint, even in the comments I just saw, thank you, Melvin, a hundred percent agree with where we're at and the certifications and the SkillsUSA, and the students coming in. What are you hearing back from the industry on support of this? I know I'm hearing good things.

Jared Ribble: Well, yeah, we are all hearing good things, right? What we need, however, is it still, just to be perfectly honest with you, it comes down to the contractor. The contractors have to, we need desperately the contractors to engage. Let's talk about SkillsUSA for just a quick second. We need contractors to dive down into those trade schools, and into the high schools and say, "We'll help teach. We've got a qualified trainer on our staff. We're going to send them over to the high school or the trade school. We'll help teach once a week."

Folks, contractors, hear me very clearly. If you want some of the best workers, get down into the high schools, get down into the trade schools. And that's a perfect funnel to funnel the best talent right into your companies. Get there and teach, get there and help them build mockups. Get there and help them with the tools. Whatever you can do, contractors, get there and you will funnel this talent into your company. It will pay you dividends in spades. So help teach them, help train them, and then send them off to SkillsUSA so that roofing can be represented by some of the best students. And it attracts more. Contractors, you have to get involved. Heidi, I'm just jumping in. I get all excited with my coffee. What were you going to say?

Heidi J. Ellsworth: No, that's exactly, I was just going to say, the winning student last year was supported by Baker Roofing out of the Carolinas or-

Jared Ribble: Yeah.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Baker's all over. So I am not sure if it was exactly out of the Carolinas, but yeah. And so the contractors are supporting these students, teaching them, helping them get to SkillsUSA. And so there's a lot of ways for them to get involved. And if you don't know how, this is between Jared, between us, we can get you to the right people to get involved.

Jared Ribble: Believe me, we have the connections now with the trade schools, with the CTE schools. Contractors, if you are sitting on the sidelines, complaining, fussing about the fact that you don't have quality workers, we can point you to the place where the quality workers are, and the places where they're getting trained. Come on, come off the sidelines and let's get you some help. Okay? Contractors, get involved in Roofing Day. You have a voice. Don't just sit on your mobile phone, barking on Twitter, saying how terrible everything is. No. Where actually, your voice is actually heard is at Roofing Day, sitting down with your congressperson. Get there. We've created the avenue. All you got to do is show up.

And then contractors, take your best workers and get them ProCertified. Here's where the real value is. When you have that worker, two or three on a crew who are ProCertified, they've got the patch, they've got the hard hat stickers, they are a cut above, and you're showing that they're a cut above. What that does is it inspires the rest of the crew to be like them. And all of a sudden, the quality of your whole crew goes up. So really, contractors, I don't know how many contractors we have listening, but-

Heidi J. Ellsworth: We have a lot.

Jared Ribble: ... it really does come down to the contractors getting engaged. You, NRCA, the National Roofing Contractors Association, we work for you. You, the contractors have asked us to develop this. You've helped us develop this. Now you just jump in and get engaged in solving your workforce development problems.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And here's the great thing. This is all going to be available at the IRE show. So the National Roofing Contract Association, the Roofing Alliance, they're going to have a huge booth in the middle of the show that is going to be the place where you can get information on ProCertification. Jared, you're going to have demonstrations, right?

Jared Ribble: Yep.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Of the ProCertified process.

Jared Ribble: Exactly. We're going to have mock-ups there, showing people how to do this at their shops, showing people how they can do it up on their roofs, where you don't even have to take one of your crew members off the job. We're going to show you how to do it even just right up on the roof. So come by the NRCA booth, we're going to get you all hooked up with Roofing Day. We're going to get you hooked up with ProCert. We're going to get you hooked up with getting into the CTE schools and the SkillsUSA competition, so you're attracting the best people. Come by. IRE is the place to be, and we're going to be there to help you.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, and it is so cool. Okay, so I want to take all of this, all the great things that are happening within NRCA, and we know it's all going to be at IRE. So let's talk about IRE for a little bit, get this feel of what it is. And so one of the first things that I wanted to bring out, and Rich, I would love for you to just talk about this overall is, I'm not sure everyone understands or knows Informa. That Informa owns the IRE show. They work hand in hand. I mean, I'm on the advisory committee and NRCA's on, you guys have an amazing advisory committee with the industry. Such a great relationship. So can you just tell everybody a little bit about Informa, and then let's go into what is IRE?

Rich Russo: Absolutely. Well, let me just start by saying IRE just represents a sliver of the overall roofing industry. And one of the things that drew me in and really excites me is the passion and the engagement of this entire industry. And that's just on display with Jared. I mean, you could just see that this is an engaging community that really wants to understand, wants to get better, wants to do more. And from that standpoint, IRE represents just a little piece of that. But from that standpoint, we're the ones that have the ability to reach a lot of people in a short period of time. So from that standpoint, Informa Markets itself does own the International Roofing Expo. We put on a number of events through a multitude of industries around the world. It's a global company.

Personally, this is my baby. I work on IRE all year long. It does take a full year to put this thing together, but for those that don't know, if you haven't been to IRE before, you certainly need to make the effort to get there. And for those that do, you know what an amazing event it is. It's just full of fun, excitement, education, content, new products. It is the largest roofing and exteriors event in North America. It does take place, this year, it'll take place February 6th through the 8th in Las Vegas. It is a yearly event and it really brings together contractors, remodelers, builders, distributors, architects, suppliers, and just tons more. It's really the connecting point for the industry. We offer best in class education. We offer networking opportunities, community service. There's just tons of meet and greets. There's ways to meet current suppliers, there's ways to meet new suppliers. There's ways to find new products.

So if you're in the roofing and exteriors communities, IRE is really the place to be. There's so many things to see. It is three days, but there is ways to engage throughout the year through our online services and programs that we do have. But our goal is really to bring that industry together, to have a focal point throughout the year where people can connect, they can learn, they can educate, and they can be involved. From that standpoint, it is a sharing of best practices, ways for them to educate themselves, to improve their businesses. So from that standpoint, we do have top-notch education. We're going to have a jam-packed exhibit floor. It's going to be the largest IRE ever. And we also have a ton of networking opportunities and ways for people to connect with each other.

So we're excited to really put this thing forward in 2024. And again, as mentioned, it's going to be in Las Vegas, which is the capital of exhibition, trade show places. So it's a phenomenal venue and location, and it's going to be an exciting time for everybody to gather. So we're looking forward to it.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Well, and Rich, I would love for you to share, and we have some pictures here of some of the past IREs. But this last year, it was huge. We had so many people. It was such a great event. But talk a little bit about just the feedback from last year and what you're seeing, what to look forward to this coming year that really, we saw success from.

Rich Russo: Yeah, absolutely. Last year, it was amazing. It was in Dallas. It was the largest IRE ever. So most number of exhibitors, the largest square footage. We had just about 600 suppliers that were floored in the exhibition hall. We had over 170,000 square feet. So from that perspective, if you want to break it down, it's about seven football fields of just complete exhibit space. We had over a hundred conference and networking sessions. So a ton of education and ways for people to connect. And it's going to be even bigger and better this year, Heidi. I mean, so far, we're about 90% sold out. So I mean, it's looking even bigger and better than it was last year, from the standpoint, we're going to be over 600 exhibitors. We'll probably be about 190 or maybe nine football fields. So we are going to be bigger and better than we were.

This year, it'll be in Las Vegas. We're during Super Bowl week, so that was something that did come up. We're not worried about that. We've got plenty of hotel rooms and people will be able to get their space and get their accommodations. Just do it early. Make sure that you do it. We're actually tracking about 65% ahead on our hotel rooms, so make sure you get online and book those hotel rooms now. But we're in communication with the Convention and Visitors Authority, and we have lots of plans in place to make sure that everybody has a smooth and seamless experience at IRE this year.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I know with this big a growth, sometimes there's some challenges, especially when you're going into such a big city and you're doing everything. So the more people can get done ahead of time, I know we're on it, because we're thinking the same thing. We just want to be no procrastination. And I think as an industry, we love to procrastinate, but not this time. We can't. So, okay, let's go through the week. So for everybody on here, let's go through the week, what we should be expecting. So let's start with... Actually, I was going to start with this... National Women in Roofing Day. Because that's really the first day is on Sunday. But maybe, Rich, can you just walk us through the week, what some of the big things are? And then we're going to come back down and focus in on those and have Brandi talk about some of that.

Rich Russo: Absolutely. As I mentioned, you'll come and plan to be there for the full three days. Actually, even starting well before that, as you mentioned, National Women in Roofing is kicking off their event, and that'll take place on Sunday, February 4th. They'll host the Seventh Annual Conference. Last year actually had over 500 people attending. I mean, just an amazing turnout, in just six years, I mean. So it's really exciting to see that really take off. We're looking forward to supporting and partnering with them on that initiative as well. That takes place on Sunday. On Monday, Brandi will go through our Community Service Day efforts and an amazing program. It's the 15th year, I believe, Brandi.

Brandi McElhaney: Yes.

Rich Russo: So she'll give you all the details that you need to know about Community Service Day, and the great things that our customers and the suppliers are really stepping up and helping the community.

Then on Tuesday is when the show kicks off. I mean, each day, we have a entire slate full of conference sessions. They begin at 7:45, so make sure you get there early, because it's an early start. But the conference sessions go from 7:45 to about 11 o'clock, and the show floor opens up at 11 o'clock. So conference takes place early. These are the paid conference sessions. And then the show floor opens up at 11 o'clock, and you'll be able to experience and connect with the over 600 exhibitors that we'll have on the show floor. We do have a lot of content that will also be on display on the show floor, hands-on demonstration, training, best practice sharing. So there's a ton of things going on on the show floor as well.

We do have a keynote. Our keynote will take place on opening morning about 9:30. We're still putting the final touches on that. We're not ready to announce yet. But certainly, Heidi, you'll be the first to know.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I was going to say, come on, give us a little something.

Rich Russo: I know. We won't give you a sneak peek under the curtain yet, but we certainly have that in the works, and we'll be able to announce that soon. So again, after the first day of the show, we have our First-Time Attendee Program, which is a reception that is so graciously hosted by RoofersCoffeeShop. So thank you so much for that.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: We love our first-timers.

Rich Russo: Yes, we love our first-timers. We're actually doing a lot of things around the Welcome Reception, which follows the First-Time Attendee Reception as well. So we're really looking forward to a big event. Again, it's Vegas, so you're going to have a great turnout. Same thing. We're actually just finalizing some details on that, and we'll be able to give some more specifics around that at a later date. But the reception is always well-attended. It's a great event, and we're really looking forward to posting that in Vegas this year.

And then days two and three follow a similar format. 7:45 is when the conference sessions open up. Don't forget about the Roofing Alliance Student Competition that does start at 8:00 AM. An amazing event. We're truly honored to have that as part of the IRE experience, and really are looking forward to continuing the efforts of NRCA, and bringing in that youth to continue the roofing industry and really promote CTE throughout. So we're excited to be a part of that, and that event is an amazing event. And everybody needs to carve a little bit of time out to try and get to attend that event. Sorry, go ahead.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: No, go ahead. Go ahead.

Rich Russo: I was just going to mention, also, on Wednesday is the NRCA Awards Ceremony and Reception. Again, an amazing event that they get to celebrate and honor the best of the best within the industry. And that also takes place right on site at the Las Vegas Convention Center, so certainly, make time to get to that event as well.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: There are so many great events. And so one of the things I would love right now, because I'm watching the chat, and I have Leanne and Jill talking about National Women in Roofing Day, so I would just love it if you feel like you get into the chat and let us know if you went to National Women in Roofing Day ever before. If you've ever gone to one of those days. And if you haven't, if you're interested in going this year, because then it'd be fun, we'll connect you with some of the ladies who have already gone.

But I think that's a big part of National Women in Roofing Day is at that very beginning, so that it allows women to connect... And men, because men and women go to this... And be able to then go through the whole week for IRE, including a lot of them who go to Community Service the next day after National Women in Roofing. So Brandi, your passion, and I love it so much, Community Service. Talk to us a little bit about what that is while the ladies are saying here, if they're going to all of this.

Brandi McElhaney: Okay, awesome. Yes, Community Service Day is my favorite day of the year. We are on our 15th Annual, and we again are sponsored by Sika. They generously have sponsored us for 15 years now. So it's an amazing day. And we have a bunch of other great sponsors that they support us each year. So it's just an amazing day. Getting together a day before the show starts, and we adopt two or three homes, and we help the community in whatever area that we're in. And it is just so moving and so rewarding, and it's my favorite day of the year. So we would love to have you. It's the day before the show. It's on February 5th, and we normally leave around eight o'clock, come back around two. So you can still participate in your activities on Monday night, but we would love to have you.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And there's a limit of how many people can participate, so people should sign up early.

Brandi McElhaney: Yeah. Because we adopt maybe two to three homes, we've adopted up to seven at one time. So it depends on the homes, and it depends on the scope of the work that we're doing as to how many people we could fit in each home. We normally max out at about 75 or 80, but yeah, so register early. We'd love for you to join us.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Well, I also want to say on Monday, there has been a new initiative over the last couple years of a day two for National Women in Roofing. So I say go to get community service, but if it does sell out, be aware that there's also going to be a day two for National Women in Roofing all about diversity. And last year, they did yoga and a book club. They're doing all kinds of things to really continue that movement through there. So between Community Service, diversity, I mean, there is some real thought leadership and great things happening throughout the week.

And one of the ones that I want Jared to talk about just a little bit that is really important is the Roofing Day. It's not really Roofing Day, but it's ROOFPAC Auction that National Women in Roofing also helps support. And that is on Monday night. And one year, Jared, you actually played the drums.

Jared Ribble: I played a drum for about a millisecond.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It was still impressive.

Jared Ribble: Well, I've hit them on an occasion in my life. But that ROOFPAC event, thanks for bringing that up. Your slide at the beginning where you said Roofing Day, the ROOFPAC event, that is the fundraising event for our government lobbyist organization that helps deliver the message, the needs of the roofing industry to our government. So we need as much help as we can to fund that Political Action Committee to make sure that roofers are represented to our federal government. It's always a fun event, great networking, but a great mission. And it's very, very important that our federal government knows what we're doing. And the ROOFPAC event and that fundraiser helps make sure that that happens.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, it does. I mean, they have some cool things. I know I've seen the ladies, and Charles Antis up there with the jackets that have the logos inside they auction off every year. Some beautiful work from Rick Damato, some trips. It is just really a great event. So if you can get there, it's also a great time to find out more about ROOFPAC, how you can support the industry, because the roofing industry needs to have that voice. We need to have that voice up on Capitol Hill and within every state to really talk about, to protect our workers, and to continuing the CTE. I mean, I think about the Perkins Act and everything that we've worked on, Jared. It's really critical for our industry.

Jared Ribble: Right. Yeah. If roofers aren't showing up, if we're not showing up to our government, they don't know what we need. And then things you mentioned, the Perkins Act, that money, it never gets allocated to us. And so show up. This is not about sitting on the sidelines anymore. It's getting active in stuff that you're passionate about. Show up, get active, and help this industry.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Well, and I tell you what, that's the thing is that a lot of this information, everybody will be able to get at the IRE. So not only at that ROOFPAC event, there's going to be a Roofing Alliance event after that. And then you go into the show, where you can actually go in and get the information on all of these events. I do want to say on the Perkins Act, it's on our list for a coffee conversation, too, because there's so much grant money out there for roofing companies to get new hires to train ProCertification, all those kind of things. So this is the place to find it.

But speaking of the Roofing Alliance, let's talk just for a second about, I think, one of the coolest things out there, and that is the Student Competition. So Alison was going to speak on this. So Jared and I are stepping in a little bit here to talk about this, but I've been involved with this Student Competition for many, many years. And we have been there. We work with it, we help promote it. You see it all over RoofersCoffeeShop. Well, this year, the students are going to be competing. What they do is they actually put together a bid and a proposal for a structure that's already been roofed, and then they present that just as if they were presenting to a building owner in front of everyone. It is incredibly impressive. If you have never been to it, just step in. It's during classes, it's the seventh, it starts at 8:00 AM. In between classes, come into it or skip a class, and come and just watch. That's what we do. Not to have anybody skip classes, Brandi, but Student Competition is just so great.

This year, they are going to be competing on the Formula One paddock building. This building is multiple roofs. It is incredibly complicated, and the students put together a safety plan, an estimate, of course, how their quality control, how they're going to put all this together, and then they present it. Last year's winner was Clemson. The year before that, Texas A&M. I mean, you're talking about some very prestigious university construction management schools competing in this. So Jared, I mean, these are the kind of initiatives between NRCA and Roofing Alliance that are changing our industry.

Jared Ribble: Yeah. What I think is interesting is a little bit of the history of why. Why is there this Student Competition where these kids go walk a roof and figure out how to do a takeoff and sell it, right? The purpose was that schools like Clemson and Texas A&M and Colorado, they didn't care about roofing. And the Roofing Alliance, NRCA's philanthropic arm, went into these universities and said, "What do we got to do? What's it going to take?"

And they said, "Hold a student competition and do it this way. Because what's going to happen is these construction trade students are going to get interested and acclimated to how to do roofing, and how to sell roofing, and the engineering behind it." So then we put them up on really cool buildings, the Formula One building. In previous years, we've done, I think the Raiders stadium.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: The Globe. Yep. In Dallas, it was the Globe Stadium.

Jared Ribble: So then you put them up on really cool projects, and they go, "Oh, wow, roofing isn't just for those guys over there. This is a really cool, viable career path for myself." So the Student Competition, that's the history of the why. And what I'm encouraging you, the audience, just like Heidi was doing, is come watch these kids and see what our future looks like.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It's impressive.

Jared Ribble: I'm going to keep saying it. If you're sitting on the sidelines, complaining, "We don't have talent," you got to come in and watch this competition, and you will see real talent. And oh, by the way, they're there, probably wanting a job when they finish school.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: A number of them have come into the industry. And they had this chance to go to work with general contractors, but after this experience of being in the roofing industry, coming to the show, talking to everyone, they made decisions to come into the roofing industry instead of going to work for a GC. That's huge.

Jared Ribble: Exactly. Exactly. And again, same thing with this competition. They look for contractors to come in and mentor these students to go up on that building and help them teach them how to do it. So anyway, we're trying to find the things that might hit your hot button, that might help solve a problem for you, just by showing up and being a part of these competitions with these kids.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I think one of the things that's really cool is the whole Student Competition was started by the idea of a roofing contractor, Dennis Conway, out of Las Vegas with commercial roofers, and it's their building. They did Formula One, so now they mentor and they work with these kids or young people as they are bidding this, and preparing for this competition. And so one person's idea has now turned into this huge event that happens every year. So it really shows the power of getting involved, I think, to your point, Jared.

Okay, I want to make sure I'd love to have everybody continue to ask questions. We're going to get to some of the details and logistics. Because I know people have questions about that, but I do want to mention there's a number of ladies who have been to National in Women Roofing Day and are going again. So if you're in the chat, and you're looking and you haven't been before... Like Bridget, we're very excited to see you there... Make a note and check it out. And we can always make introductions. And also, Jill Tackett, thank you for talking about Roofing Day, and she's been twice. We've been It is great. Again, IRE is a great place to do it.

But one of the things, we just did a webinar on trade shows, and how to get the most out of trade shows. And really, it comes down to all of these great events, all this networking. Information on the trade show floor, of course, is so important, but it's the educational classes. And Brandi does an amazing job with multiple. Okay, first of all, Brandi, how many submittals did you have for classes? And then tell us about them.

Brandi McElhaney: It was almost 300, and the least favorite part of my job is to narrow them down to 45 sessions, and to tell all these other great submitters that, "I'm sorry, we couldn't include you this year." So it's my least favorite.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, it's hard.

Brandi McElhaney: It's a good problem to have. But yeah, it's hard. So yes, we have 45 sessions within our regular conference program.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And how do these sessions really help? I mean, there's so much going on. Labor shortage, which we already talked about. There's the economic sales, inflation, all these different things. How do these classes really address what's happening right now, offering continuing education for roofing companies?

Brandi McElhaney: That's why we have the board to tell us, "Hey, this is what's going on in the industry. These are where we need to focus." And so we narrow it down from there. But a lot of the sessions are dealing with diversity and inclusion. We have a State of the Industry Address by Roofing Contractor again this year that was super-successful last year. We're doing technology, AI, things like that. Sustainability is big. We even have a session on mental health, because we know that that's a hot topic as well. And we have several on workforce development. So we try to pick the hottest topics that people can really, truly take home with them solutions to today's problems.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. And registering ahead of time. I know everybody has to register, but register early, as soon as that's open. And so Brandi, when does all that? What is the plan there?

Brandi McElhaney: We should have reg open probably in two or three weeks, Rich, is that right?

Rich Russo: Yep. By the end of the month.

Brandi McElhaney: Yes, we are testing it and making sure that it's perfect before it goes out to everyone. So really soon.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Really soon. And so getting registered for those classes, taking time and really taking as many people as you can from your company, and hitting all the different classes. There's just, I sit on that board, I get to read all of those. It is amazing. The talent that we're going to see, I think, really makes this happen. So that's all three mornings, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Yeah, it's lovely when you get the 7:45 class, but it's worth it.

Brandi McElhaney: I get a lot of enemies for that, too. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's early. In addition to that, we also have show floor education. So once the show floor opens, we have, I believe, six clinics on the show floor that is going to hold, they're actually free education, and some of them are hands-on. So there's lots and lots of opportunities on the show floor as well. I mean, over 50 sessions. So education is everywhere, which is amazing.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And let's talk a little bit about the show floor. So Rich, you said you're 90% sold out. And booths are bigger, there's more going on than ever. Can you talk about some of the highlights that you see coming down?

Rich Russo: Yeah. So from that standpoint, the other real keynote there is about probably by the end of it, we'll have close to a hundred vendors, suppliers that were not at the shell last year. So if you came last year and you're looking to come this year, there's going to be a hundred people that you didn't see. So with the show being well over 600 suppliers, we are excited to bring new content and new blood into this, so people will be able to connect with potentially a new supplier.

But to your point, yeah, we have three big initiatives that we're really trying to drive home this year. The first one is our exteriors. As the industry evolves and changes, we've seen roofing contractors expanding their offerings to provide more remodeling and replacement products such as siding, windows, doors. So we're doubling the area on the show floor this year. So there'll be hopefully close to 50 or 60 vendors, suppliers that are providing exteriors products.
Our second big initiative is around the clinics. And as Brandi mentioned, we had two clinics last year, which are hands-on demonstrations. We have subject matter experts that are really focused on providing key best practices and ways to use products. Last year we had over a thousand people sit and watch these two sessions. So again, the engagement to me is just amazing. So we said, "You know what? We need to provide more of this." This year, we're adding two new hands-on demonstration clinics. One is going to be on single-ply roofing, and one is dedicated to metal roofing. So really exciting stuff there.

And then our third big initiative is around the Hispanic contractor. We certainly know that the industry has been evolving, and that the Hispanic contractor has been increasing over the last 10 years. One of the big takeaways I took from this year's show was the feedback that they didn't feel like they had a home there. So we really are making a lot of changes to make sure that IRE really supports the Hispanic contractor. We're having our registration services available in Spanish. We're going to have dedicated registration lines for Spanish-speaking staff. We're going to promote it all over, exhibitors that speak Spanish. We're going to have buttons or ribbons that say, "I speak Spanish" to really make it feel like, again, that there's an opportunity for you to communicate, engage, and get the education and content and the value that you're looking for when you come to IRE.

As a matter of fact, this year, Brandi has secured an all-Spanish session. So one of the conference sessions will be all in Spanish. It's the first one we've ever had, and we'll continue to look to develop that in future years. But really excited about those three big initiatives that we're driving home on the show floor.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, I love it. And I love the fact that we are thinking, so the diversity, right? And we're thinking of people who maybe English isn't their first language. And we want everyone in the roofing to be a part of this and to be involved. And we're getting some great comments about very thoughtful initiatives. And also, I want to say to Lindsay, "As a new roofing company, 18 months, we can't wait to attend for the first time. Can't believe how much is offered in four days. It's huge. And Brandi, thank you for saying, "Reach out to me.'" This is the kind of stuff that we need to do. And Lindsay, be sure you come to the First-Timers event. It is the Tuesday at five o'clock. And where's that going to be at, Brandi? Do we know yet?

Brandi McElhaney: We are-

Rich Russo: No, not yet. We're getting ready to, again, we're putting final touches on that as well. We still have about five months till the show, so we're just finalizing things. Again, Heidi, you will be the first to know when we have that locked and loaded.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Well, we've got Danielle earlier, who was saying, "Yeah, we're all excited about that keynote. Now we have where the Welcome Party will be, too." So this is-

Rich Russo: We're trying to tease it out over the next few weeks to give you stuff to look forward to.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: You know we'll be following up on that one.

Rich Russo: Absolutely.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: As you can see here, Lindsay's getting help from everybody out there, so I love it. One of the things that I want to talk about is logistics. So we know that the Super Bowl is going to be the Sunday after our week there. So there's a lot of really positives. The positives, maybe, you may see some famous people during that week. You never know who you're going to see in the Uber or on the Uber line, but it's also going to be a lot of people. There's going to be a lot of people there. There's going to be a lot of things going on. So Rich, what is some of your suggestions for people? I mean, who are going to want to be putting dinners together, who want to be on accommodations, all of these types of things. We want it to be a great experience for everyone.

Rich Russo: Yeah, I mean, it's a great point, Heidi. I mean, to be honest, it is Las Vegas, and they are fully equipped to handle massive amounts of crowds. So we've been in close conversation, as I mentioned earlier, with the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority. We've had studies done with airlines and hotels and bookings. So from that standpoint, plan early. Make sure that you're booking your flights now if you haven't already. Make sure that you get your hotel soon, if you haven't done that already. Our block, we have amazing rates. Our block is actually about 40% larger than it was last year. So we've got tons of hotel rooms still available. The rates are extremely competitive with the normal rates for the city, and we're not seeing that sort of spike from the Super Bowl.

It will be busy, it's Vegas. It's going to be busy anyway. So if you are looking to have those kind of dinners, same thing. Make sure you make those reservations early. And if you do all that stuff and you do a little bit of pre-planning, you'll have no problems on site. We're working with the LVCA on transportation as well, looking at offering some monorail passes and things like that. So these are all things that are in the works, and we'll be able to communicate as we finalize some of those details.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, very good. Alfonso, thank you. I wish I read Spanish, but thank you for your comment there. I think they're very impressed with the fact what you're doing, having really opening it up with more Spanish-speaking signage, everything that is going to really change the face of that. So thank you.

Jared, on the show floor, we talked about it just a little bit, but I want to just make sure you are going to have ProCertification demonstrations.

Jared Ribble: Yeah.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: But in the past, you've had actually where people could hands-on do their certification there and get it. That's not the case this year, so talk a little bit about the demos. And then as people are listening here, and they're like, "I want to get through this certification process. How do I do it?" If not at the IRE show, where can they go, and how do they get their teams certified?

Jared Ribble: Sure. So it is an assessment. It's an assessment of your skills. It's like a driver's test on steroids. We're running you through the paces with your skills. We used to do it on the show floor. That's correct. However, we got feedback from the installers and contractors that, "Hey, this is a serious thing. It's a serious certification. And these guys, they want to do well, but there's nerves involved. People start to watch and point and that sort of thing, and it's not a fair, healthy environment for them to do it on the show floor." But it's really important that installers and contractors see what the process looks like. Because once you see it, although you might be a little nervous, it takes the mystery out of it. And you're like, "Oh, I can do that." So we want to be able to show people how to do it, as well as we want to show you how to do this up on your own roof.

So we're going to be demonstrating that. We're going to be giving you an opportunity to practice how to do it up on the roof, even though we're going to be on a mock-up. So it's going to be interactive space for you. So come by and check that out. Then if you're there and you're like, "Oh, we got this," and most of you all do, we have assessors that can come out to your shops. We've got ways to, again, we're going to show you how to do this yourself right up on the roof. So we're trying to take the mystery out of it, and make it as simple and easy a process for you to show how professional your installers are.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And there's so many manufacturers out there who are also doing assessments and helping to do that through the process. We were just at Metal-Era this week for RT3, and they have a whole mock-up. They have the ProCertification mock-up there, and they are doing assessments and have trainers. So talk to your manufacturers, too.

Jared Ribble: Right. So both talk to your manufacturers, but talk to us. All you need to do is decide, "Yeah, we want to do that." And NRCA is going to hold your hand to create a perfect fit of process that matches your company and how to do it best for your daily workflow. We don't want this to interrupt your workflow. We want to make this as convenient and as efficient as possible. It's important. We're going to serve you in that way. Contact us, and we're going to get you all hooked up and make it nice and easy for you.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. So questions. If you have questions for this team, questions about the IRE, what's going to be happening, or if we've missed something that you are really excited about going to and we haven't said anything about it, please put it in the chat. We got just a few more minutes left.

But one of the things, Rich, I wanted to make sure we talked about, too, is there are some things that you can do once you're there at the show that will make your life so much easier, and the life of your company probably easier. And some of those things are obviously going to these events, really networking and getting the most ROI out of it. But also, getting your badges early, registering early, going through the processes. Let's talk a little bit about that.

Rich Russo: Absolutely. So you're right. I mean, pre-planning is going to be key in just about anything. And for those that did attend last year, we certainly understand some of the challenges we had, and we're certainly going to make sure that that never happens again. And from that standpoint, we are asking people, "Make sure that you register ahead of time. You will be provided with your barcode and your QR code to be able to scan and get that taken care of." We've actually changed our registration vendors. The process is going to be much easier, much smoother. We have a multiplier of more equipment to be able to handle the crowds. I mean, from that standpoint, we had so many people that it did cause a backlog. But as you mentioned, Heidi, the key here is making sure that you pre-plan.

We do open registration a day early, so it's about midday on Monday. And if you're in Vegas, stop by and get your badge ahead of time. That way, you can go right into your conference sessions at 7:45 on Tuesday. You can head right to the keynote, if that's what you're planning. You can go right to the show floor at 11 o'clock when that opens up. So a little bit of pre-planning is going to help.

As far as the actual show goes, make sure that you log onto the website at theroofingexpo.com. You'll be able to favorite exhibitors. You'll be able to plan your day out ahead of time to make sure that you're seeing and connecting with the right vendors, suppliers that you need to and want to see. So if you log in, that stuff will be all available to you within your platform, and you'll be able to keep track of that and make sure that you're efficient on site. Because as we said, it's a full slate of events and functions and exhibitors and suppliers to see. So it's going to be a hectic three days, but as long as you're planning ahead of time and making sure that you understand where you're going, you'll make the most of it. So certainly, a little bit of pre-planning will certainly go a long way.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. And make sure as soon as things open, get signed up for community service. I mean, as soon as registration opens, just get in there on a lot of those different things. The one note I did want to say is in the, I think it started last year, Brandi, but I'm not a hundred percent sure, that registration for National Women in Roofing Day is now through National Women in Roofing. So if you register for IRE and you think, "Oh, good, I'm all registered," well, you need to go one more step and register at NationalWomeninRoofing.org, and make sure that you sign up there, too.

Questions? Oh, Danielle, thank you. Yes, you can download the Roofing Expo app to access information as well, which is great. That is exactly what you're going to want. I've used the app. It's great. Everything's right there.

I just want to thank you. Thank you, Jared. Thank you, Brandi. Thank you, Rich, for being here today. For getting us kicked off. So I think one of the things that's really important is, okay, we've got a couple little things out there that we're going to be finding about. The keynote, the welcome party. So besides obviously, the RoofingExpo.com, right? Did I say that right? I think I did. You also are going to be able to find all of this on RoofersCoffeeShop. And I want to say thank you, because the folks at Informa work with us very closely. All that information, as soon as it comes out, we have it up on the site. There's a full directory. You can get any information or contacts that you need. And of course, we'll always make introductions for anybody who wants to find out more. So Rich, last thoughts?

Rich Russo: Well, again, we're looking forward to an amazing event. I want to say thank you to Heidi, to RoofersCoffeeShop and everything that you guys do. You're amazing partners. Jared, NRCA, ditto that. I mean, you guys are amazing to work with. And again, we're so honored and welcoming. You guys have been so welcoming to me as a new guy to the industry that I just can't wait to show all of the things that we have in store. February 6th to the 8th, Las Vegas. Make sure that you set your plans up, and we look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Excellent. Jared, last thoughts?

Jared Ribble: My last thoughts, honestly, they're this way on my screen. Rich and Brandi, I don't know if I'm pointing to the right people here, but folks, if you see them at IRE, you need to give them a big handshake, maybe a big hug. I don't know if they're huggers, but they are the engines behind this show. They do so much on your behalf. You give them a big thank you. They work so hard for you to make sure you have great information and a great quality experience. So thank you, Rich. Thank you, Brandi, for everything you're doing. And you deserve huge rounds of applause, standing ovations.

Brandi McElhaney: Thanks, Jared.

Rich Russo: Thank you.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And Brandi, leave us last thoughts.

Brandi McElhaney: Just again, to echo Rich, just the partnership with you guys, Heidi and NRCA and our roofers. I mean, it's the best industry ever, and I'm not just saying that. So I'm just very happy to be here, and I appreciate all the support. And I can't wait to see you guys in Vegas.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you. Thank you all for being here, and thank you, Beacon, as our sponsor. I am looking forward to seeing what they have up their sleeve or under their hat for this next year. It's going to be a great thing. We really appreciate everything they do for the industry overall.

And be sure to join us in September 24th. We are going to be live from the Western Roofing Expo. So if this is another great show, it's also in Vegas, so come out to Western Roofing Expo. Check it out, and you'll be all ready for IRE, because you already know everything that's there. We will be talking live from that show about what's happening in the Western states, what's hot, what's not, what we need to be talking about. As always, we'll also be live from the sound stage throughout the entire show.

And I did forget to mention, watch for RoofersCoffeeShop booth in the lobby of the IRE. You'll be seeing us there with live the entire time over YouTube, so we love to come to these shows and bring them all to you as much as we can. We will be seeing you next in two weeks on September 24th. Tune in and have a wonderful day. Thank you all. Thank you, the panelists, and thank you, everybody, for being on this show today.

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