NEW ORLEANS — A booming construction economy helped the International Roofing Expo set records, organizers said.

The Feb. 6-8 conference at the Ernest Morial Convention Center attracted 10,076 people from 62 countries. The trade show’s 467 exhibitors took up a record 137,480 square feet of floor space.

“The passion in the industry, our media partners, and show sponsor, the NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association), really make the IRE a remarkable show,” said show director Tracy Garcia. “It’s a truly collaborative industry and event, giving buyers the opportunity to see new innovations while taking part in a powerful educational program.”

The educational program was especially successful, according to senior conference manager Brandi McElhaney.  “In comparison to last year, we saw a 7 percent increase.”

Among the educational sessions was a Feb. 7 presentation by Lisa Ryan of Ohio consulting firm Grategy LLC. Her presentation focused on two problems currently affecting the construction industry: How do you attract young people and if you do, how do you manage millennial-age workers? 

Ryan pointed out that older workers have been complaining about young people for more than 2,000 years. But the millennial generation — roughly defined as those born between 1981 and 1996, according to the Pew Research Center — like every generation, do have some unique characteristics, she said.

“Millennials are wired differently,” Ryan said. And that means your company likely needs to make some adjustments if it wants to attract these 22- to 37-year-olds as workers or customers.

“Unless you’re willing to do business differently, your business has the potential of dying,” she said. “We not only have to convince them that this is a great (career), we have to convince their parents that they’re not settling by going into the trades.”

Several audience members agreed, with one saying it’s people willing to do physical work that he has the most trouble finding.

“For every guy who operates a drone, I need six who can operate a hammer,” he said.

If you want to attract young people, you have to go where they are, Ryan said. And that means online through social media.

Besides Facebook and Twitter, you need to become familiar with online job review websites such as A negative review there can make it harder to recruit. Monitor what current and former employees are saying about you. No company wants the only comments to be from disgruntled ex-employees.

The 2019 roofing expo is scheduled for Feb. 11-13, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee.