Roofing is a vocation full of friendly, spirited competition, breeding innovation and a race to be "the best." That competitive energy can also become cooperative when the industry's largest suppliers and their customers come together, advocating for positions that have collective benefit.
In that vein, major distributors and contractors joined forces for meetings with members of Congress during the National Roofing Contractors Association's "Roofing Day" affair, which took place April 18-19, 2023. The yearly gathering focuses on important issues currently affecting the industry.
This year’s agenda, coordinated ahead of the event by the NRCA’s Roofing Day Advisory Committee, included immigration reform to address roofing's looming labor shortages, support for making permanent expiring tax abatements that benefit Main Street businesses, and additional funding for the Department of Energy's research into high-performance building products.
After briefings by policy experts and NRCA officials, around 250 attendees met with their representatives, seeking their support. Following one such meeting, Tom Walker, executive director of commercial roofing for ABC Supply Co. Inc., said regardless of whether you’re a distributor, manufacturer or contractor, you’re affected by these issues.
“The magic of Roofing Day is the collaboration of the entire industry getting together and we show the force that we are and we speak from one voice on pre-determined issues, so we’re all singing out of the same hymnal, if you will, relative to delivering messages to congress people and senators,” Walker said.
The roofing industry is gaining ground by showing up en masse and speaking with a unified message. For instance, funding for the Perkins Career and Technical Education State Grants increased by $50 million, which helps ensure students receive vocational training and education.
Roofing distributors not only supported the event financially — sponsoring meals, receptions and presentations — members from those companies also attended meetings alongside other roofing professionals. Among them was Kent Gardner, president of building products at SRS Distribution. He said many issues facing the roofing industry need to be addressed, from labor and immigration to inflation, and it requires a unified effort to solve those problems.
“This is one way where we can collectively as a group put aside all our completive spirit against each other and try to come together to try to really attack the issues here in D.C.,” he said.
One NRCA priority Gardner was particularly interested in was shoring up the Main Street Tax Certainty Act. The legislation, introduced in 2017 as part of the larger Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, provides pass-through business owners comparable tax relief to the corporate rate reductions outlined in the TCJA.
The 2017 Main Street provision allows pass-throughs to deduct up to 20% of their qualified business income, or QBI. However, many of those reductions in the TCJA, including the Main Street provision, are set to expire in 2025 if not renewed or made permanent, which the NRCA advocates.
“It really gave the small- to mid-size business owners an ability to have some tax deduction and to, in turn, use that money to support growing their business,” said Gardner. “The concern is that when [the Main Street provision] sunsets, it’s going to negatively impact the contractors ... that we built our business on to try and support.”
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 15,000 job openings for roofers each year from 2021 to 2031, federal action seems critical to ensure workers can install the materials distributors supply. With that in mind, attendees spoke with members of Congress about the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act, introduced by Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Penn.), a Ways and Means Committee member.
Smucker’s bill establishes a visa system to meet 21st-century demands, increases funding for Perkins grants, and reforms the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The legislation was first introduced in the 116th Congress but was never brought up for a vote and died.
Greg Bloom, vice president of national and strategic accounts for Beacon Building Products, said Beacon has been present for every iteration of Roofing Day and stands with its customers in advocating for immigration reform and funding for career and technical education. Not only do these benefit roofing contractors, but they can also help distributors alleviate labor issues.
“We have three great topics that we talked about with the congresspeople, and we’re committed to do what we can as a national roofing distributor to help the NRCA in its advocacy efforts,” Bloom said. “We have the same labor issues that roofing contractors have, so we’re struggling mightily to try to get drivers, and warehouse staff.”
He emphasized the need for more participants to attend future events, noting more attendees means a louder message and a more significant presence that can’t be ignored.
“We’re all working together to help better the industry and help get this labor shortage resolved,” he said.
The next Roofing Day is scheduled for April 16–17, 2024, at the Grand Wyatt Washington. For more information about Roofing Day, visit nrca.net.