The International Roofing Expo returned to Dallas to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, March 7-9, bringing its largest number of registrants since the pandemic to create plenty of opportunities for roofing distributors to connect with current and potential customers alike.
According to show officials, this year's event brought over 14,000 roofing professionals from more than 50 countries together. Last year's event, held in New Orleans saw 10,000. Prior to that, in 2020 — the last time IRE was in Dallas — it saw 17,060 registrants.
"IRE 2023 experienced unprecedented attendance growth, up 88% over 2022," said Kevin Thornton, senior vice president of construction, Informa Markets. "As the demand for roofing contractors continues to increase, IRE is the premier marketplace where roofers can build connections and find the latest products and innovations they need to grow their business and propel the industry forward making roofing safer, more efficient and more sustainable."
Things didn't go as smoothly as show coordinators might have hoped. The wait to register on day one was roughly three hours according to some attendees. Thornton sent an email to attendees saying the company will do better in the future.
On the plus side, IRE hosted nearly 600 manufacturers and suppliers at the 2023 edition and utilized over 175,000 square feet of the convention center, further underscoring the strong return of the roofing industry, exceeding expectations in attendance and event size.
"A lot of the guys coming by have specific questions about products or a unique situation they have in their branch or market getting product," said Jason Hughes, national showroom specialist with SRS Distribution, while at the SRS booth. "Some of the main products [they're looking for] are underlayments — people curious about underlayments ... and modified roofing."
Highlights from this year included the 6th Annual National Women in Roofing Day, which saw a record-breaking attendance of over 500 women in the roofing industry for the March 5 event. NWiR's one-day conference provides a day of collaboration and discussion aimed to empower women in the roofing industry.
"It was better than I could have ever imagined," said Michelle Boykin, COO of Rackley Roofing and President of NWiR.
This year's conference focused on the theme of "Follow Your Path," encouraging attendees to connect, discover and cultivate new relationships on their own paths to success.
"It's women in general coming together and uniting, but I think for us it allows to meet the contractors and mingle," said Tracy Wendt, manager FP&A at Beacon, a founding company member of NWiR. "It's a networking event for us as women and for us as a company as well."
The workforce shortage was on the minds of attendees as well. Finding and keeping skilled, reliable workers is among the biggest challenges facing the roofing industry, which is why IRE had author and award-winning speaker Chris Czarnik kick off the event with a keynote presentation centered on how to find and prepare the next generation of roofing professionals. He emphasized how roofing companies should be working just as hard to get their next employees as they do customers.
"The only goal of your job ad is to sell the next conversation, and you do that by creating questions that they can only answer by interacting with you in some way," said Czarnik. "That's what Nike does, that's what McDonald's does, that's what Toyota does."
SRS Distribution returned with its Para Latinos Lounge, an educational and networking center dedicated to Latino contractors. Over 1,000 attendees entered the SRS Para Latinos Lounge throughout the three-day expo.
A new addition to IRE was the Exteriors Pavilion, which included manufacturers and suppliers like LP SmartSide, Westlake Royal, James Hardie and Marvin Infinity. An Exteriors Building Clinic featured hands-on best practices when installing different styles of weather barriers and flashing prior to the exterior cladding. The Exteriors Pavilion also hosted the Exteriors Education Stage, where experts discussed business development for full-service replacement contracts, vinyl siding application, specialty tools of the trade and using emerging technology.
Mark your calendars and grab your lucky socks — the International Roofing Expo will return in 2024 Feb. 6-8 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. Visit theroofingexpo.com for more information on the 2024 expo.