ATLANTA — Making money. Working smarter. Using technology.

Those were some of the themes at the 2013 Metalcon conference, which took place here Oct. 1-3 at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta.


An estimated 5,600 came to the three-day show to learn about the newest trends in metal roofing, steel construction and green building.

Organizers said they were pleased.

“Atlanta is a great location for attracting regional as well as international groups who want to know more about using metal in their projects,” said show director Claire Kilcoyne. “Our newest feature, Metal in Action, did exactly what we wanted. It created a central spot for active learning about metal roofs, walls, solar and tools — everything a contractor needs for improving jobsite productivity.”

Attendees came from 52 countries to see exhibits from the nearly 300 companies represented on the trade show floor.

An international flair

One company with a large international clientele at Metalcon was metal roofing maker Atas International. Its booth was filled with visitors from Brazil, Russia, India and Columbia.

“All have great business potential,” said Atas President Dick Bus. “The group from Russia was interested in our products, especially what we offer for residential applications.”

Fellow exhibitor Scott Cosens of Toronto-based Samco Machinery, said he was happy with the traffic at his company’s booth.

“We’ve been coming to Metalcon for a number of years and find it one of the most successful shows for our company. A lot of the people we deal with count on this show each year,” Cosens said. “They come from all over the world, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe for an event that lasts only three days. Yes, they’re checking out the competition too. But if you’re a well-branded company, even with this large amount of traffic they’ll find you at Metalcon and get the answers they need. Also, I noticed that when they do the demonstrations for the betterment of everyone, people walk away with a lot of knowledge they didn’t think they’d ever have.”

Education opportunities

There was more knowledge available to Metalcon attendees who attended the educational sessions organizers presented at this year’s show. From selling metal roofing to the intricacies of installing flashing for it, this year’s educational sessions covered a wide variety of issues.

One popular session was hosted by Chuck Howard, a licensed professional engineer who says he has installed more than 35 million square feet of retrofit metal roofing during his career. During his Oct. 1 seminar, “How to Make Money in Any Economy With Metal Retrofit Roofing,” Howard said that he started his business — Metal Roofing Consultants — during the tough recession of the early 1980s.

In construction, retrofit metal roofing is about as immune to economic downturns as can be, he said.

“(A) recession does not affect retrofit roofing,” he said. “People have to maintain their buildings.”

That applies to governments as well, Howard said, even as a few hours before his presentation, the federal government had just had its first shutdown since 1996.

“Who puts on the most metal roofs? The government,” he said.

Schools are another good prospect, he added, even if district budgets are tight.

“They have to do something with the roofing,” Howard said. “They can only put it off for so long.

“Most new schools are going to have metal roofs,” he said. “People like metal roofs.”

Teach your customers well

But selling metal retrofit roofing may require more education than other types of construction, Howard said. Many building owners do not know much about metal roofing, let alone that it can be installed over a flat roof.

“You have to go out and teach people how to spell ‘retrofit,’ ” he said. “They don’t even know they exist.”

While he is bullish on the benefits of retrofit metal roofing, Howard said you must be careful not to oversell it.

“Be aggressive with your business plan but conservative with your metal roofing design,” he told attendees. “You do not want to have a failure.”

Ensuring there are no problems is one of the reasons Howard says that his company has never been sued — something of a rarity in the construction industry.

“We’ve engineered it right and we installed it right,” he said.

Another key to success, Howard added, is properly using technology. With programs such as Skype making face-to-face communication easy and cheap, there is no reason that your clients shouldn’t be informed throughout the process.

Untangle the Web

Then he handed over the presentation to his son, Brad Howard, who heads marketing at Metal Roof Consultants. Brad Howard told the audience not to dismiss the Internet — a habit still common in construction.

“The website is extremely important to your company,” Brad Howard said. “If you don’t have one, you need one.”

A good website, Brad Howard said, has lots of pictures — far more pictures than text. And the pictures should be constantly rotating to give visitors a reason to stay on your site.

“Always put as many pictures as you think are viable on your website … to let people know what you do,” he said.

And you can’t forget social media. An effective website also has widgets for Facebook, Twitter and similar sites. Social media isn’t just for kids.

“You need to have a company Twitter site,” Brad Howard said. “You need a company Facebook site. You need a company YouTube site.”

Using all these platforms helps ensure that your company stands out in Google searches for your industry, he said, adding that it works for Metal Roof Consultants.

“If you look for ‘metal roofing,’ you will find us,” he said, pointing out the company is currently No. 8 on unpaid Google search results for that topic.

Every time the Howards give a presentation, it boosts the company’s Web traffic, Brad Howard said.

“As soon as we leave here, our Google searches go through the roof,” he said.

It’s very simple, Chuck Howard said.

“People have to find you or you don’t exist.”

Looking ahead

This year’s show will take place Oct. 1-3 in Denver, a new location for Metalcon. So far, show officials said they expect the Rocky Mountain State location will draw well.

“Atlanta was a great show,” said Paulo Gomes-da-Costa, Metalcon’s exhibits manager. “Our exhibitors were really pleased with the audience we attracted. Many had their best show in years in terms of closing business on the show floor. With the success of this show, 89 percent of exhibitors rebooked and many companies increased their space for next year in Denver. Plus, more new exhibitors are continuing to book daily.”

The construction industry’s resurgence seems to be helping, Gomes-da-Costa added.

Overall the industry is showing signs of an emphatic rebound from previous years,” she said. “As a team we have been able to beat the curve in the construction trade show industry with growth instead of a decline like many other shows are experiencing. Our leadership continues to strive for new, innovative, and unique offerings for our exhibitors, attendees and the metal industry we serve. We look forward to 2014 being our best year yet.”

For reprints of this article, contact Renee Schuett at (248) 786-1661 or email