WSRCA President
 
Presidential Caliber
A Friendly Chat with Don Fry, 
the WSRCA's New President
by Marc Dodson, editor

Don Fry has a simple yet effective plan for the Western States Roofing Contractors

Association (WSRCA) as the 43rd president.  "I want to build on the progress and hard work

that Brad Baker, our current WSRCA president, and the 2016-17 Board of Directors achieved,"

he says.  Fry moves into the leadership role for the 2017-18 season at the WSRCA

Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, in June of this year.  This past year he served as the

association's senior vice president, and he plans to continue the push to increase

membership.  Also, he will continue to coordinate the WSRCA's efforts with other industry

associations.  Fry has a long history in the industry and a passion for making the organization the best it can be, not only during his term, but for the future of the WSRCA.


Fry got his start in the roofing industry almost 40 years ago as a part-time way to get himself through college while attending Kilgore Junior College and Stephen F. Austin University in East Texas.  After a few years in college, however, he realized he was more excited about opportunities in the roofing industry than he was about school.  He immediately moved to Dallas, Texas, and started working full-time in the industry.  By 1981, he moved to San Antonio, Texas, and established Fry Roofing Inc. at a time when tile roofing was still new in South Texas and there was a demand for quality installation.


Fry Roofing Inc. still installs tile roofs, but has included standing seam metal roof systems in their upper-end residential projects.  The commercial side of the business does mostly single-ply applications, along with metal wall panels and trim.  Fry is proud of his company and their work and has been able to participate in some interesting projects over the years.  "There was a unique project called Morgan's Wonderland, the world's first special needs, family fun amusement park," he explains.  "They incorporated many different types of architecture to simulate traveling through different countries, which involved several different roofing projects.  Another interesting project to be a part of was the construction of the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas."


The way Fry talks about his family showcases the important role that they play, not only in his personal life but also in his business.  While he is the president of the company, his younger son, Chris has been full-time with Fry Roofing for about 12 years.  "After spending a few years in college, he also saw a future in the roofing industry," he explains.  He makes it clear that he never pushed either of his sons to go into the business, but when his younger son showed interest, he was excited to have him be a part of what he built.  Fry felt it was best to start his son in the field and on the roofs for a couple years to learn the trade before he slowly made his way into the office.  At that point, his son attended the National Roofing Contractors Association's Future Executives Institute while also learning the business aspect of the company.  Fry is very proud of the effort and progress his son has made.  Fry's older son, Don Jr., graduated from Texas State University and decided to go out and seek his own success in the construction industry.  He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is a successful builder/developer.


Fry's only daughter, Amanda, is a junior at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.  She will be studying in Paris, France, this summer and plans to graduate with a degree in international business in the hopes of traveling as much as possible.  While she doesn't have any plans to participate in the family business, Fry is excited to see where her future takes her and is very proud of her hard work and efforts.


His wife, Dina, has never been involved in Fry Roofing, but she spent 20 years in the industry and retired from outside sales with ABC Supply about 12 years ago.  Even though she doesn't work for the company, she can relate to the issues in the industry and with their business.  Fry and his wife have also been blessed with five wonderful grandchildren that they enjoy spending time with.


We got together with Fry to get his thoughts on the industry and the association.


Western Roofing (WR):  What are the main problems on the job that you encounter regularly?


Fry: Whether you are in Texas or California, everyone is talking about their labor issues.  In my experience, it gets harder every year to get the younger generation interested in working in the roofing industry or construction.  Today's high school graduates seem more interested in the tech fields or attending college, instead of learning a trade.  It is a serious issue that will continue to affect our industry as our current workforce ages.


WR: What are your plans for the future?


Fry: When the time is right, my younger son, Chris, will take over the day-to-day operations until I am ready to step away completely.  I have slowly started the process by passing on some of my responsibilities, and as we continue to restructure the operations of the business, now that my son is involved, we base those decisions on my eventual retirement.


WR: Do you have any hobbies or activities?


Fry: My wife and I like to spend time at the lake and at our second home in Fredericksburg, Texas.  When time allows, we also enjoy traveling and spending time with family.


WR: What makes the WSRCA unique?


Fry:  One of the first things that attracted me to the association was that it was evenly focused on both the residential and commercial aspects of the roofing industry.  Since my company does both, it seemed to offer me the most value for my membership.  Another important thing that makes our association unique is that the annual Western Roofing Expo is run by the types of contractors it is supposed to serve.  That allows for a unique perspective on what products, seminars, and experiences a roofing contractor would find valuable.


WR:  What problems or concerns are we facing in the West that are unique to this part of the country?


Fry: Since we cover such a diverse area, it's hard to pinpoint a particular issue that is only affecting the West.  The entire industry is dealing with labor issues, OSHA, and heavy regulations that affect our daily operations to varying degrees, depending on where you are located.  This is a big part of why I think our association needs to partner with others in our field to address these issues together.


WR:  Does the WSRCA have any special projects, programs, or studies going on at the present time?


Fry: Our Steep-Slope Committee has concluded our popular four-year study of underlayment materials.  Our most recent presentation of the findings was at the International Roofing Expo® in Las Vegas.  We are now looking into slip resistance as it relates to these underlayment materials.  Additionally, our Low-Slope and Industry Issues Committees are looking into reviewing low-rise foam adhesives.  One of our most ambitious projects is our new membership drive.  Our Membership Committee, led by director Alec Ward, has taken an aggressive approach to increasing membership and benefits.  Increasing and retaining membership allows us to continue to have the best regional convention in the country.  It also enables us to deliver to our members the best value for their dues in current technical information and access to the latest products in the industry.


WR:  How will these projects or studies help the Western roofing industry turn out a better product and help members improve their business. 


Fry: Our projects have always been designed to inform our contractor members of concerns that have been reported or questions brought to us by fellow members throughout the West.  Our association knows we have a responsibility to listen and gather information for our members so they can operate their business without interruption.


WR:  How is the current economy affecting the WSRCA?


Fry:  We had record attendance at our 2016 expo, and 2017 looks to be just as good.  Regardless of a good or bad economy, our dedicated staff and Board of Directors will always remain focused on building a better expo and association for our members.


WR: Has membership in the WSRCA gone up or down in recent years?  Do you expect it to increase in the near future?


Fry:  For the 13 years that I have served on the Board of Directors, every president includes membership as a goal, and my presidency will be no different.  Membership has remained steady for the last several years.  As mentioned earlier, we have put new resources and tools in place and are starting to see the results of our efforts.  We should see a steady increase for years to come.


WR:  What would you consider the most pressing problem facing roofing contractors in the West today?


Fry:  If I had to pick one, it's the labor issue I mentioned previously.  This has been a long-standing concern in our industry with no clear answers to date, but this is the backbone of our industry and it deserves some serious attention.


WR: What does the association have to offer the roofing industry and roofing contractors?


Fry:  Western States is a good business decision for our members.  Not only do they have exclusive access to technical content written by our technical advisory staff, legal counsel, political insiders, and others, but membership provides complimentary technical advice and legal counsel from some of the most qualified professionals in their fields.  We also provide E-newsletters and bulletins that allow our members to rely on the WSRCA to gather critical information that will affect their business on a daily basis.  Add to that our members-only forums that allow for networking and technical roofing discussions with fellow contractor members, and we feel we have given great value to the investment in our association.


WR:  What does the WSRCA offer that other associations, both local and national, can't?


Fry:  Being a regional association allows us to primarily focus on issues affecting the states we represent.  There are advantages to being larger than a local association, but not as big as a national one.  Local associations are not able to offer a quality national expo for their members and put the resources into technical research like we do.  Since we are not as large as a national association, we have developed a more personal relationship with our members.  This allows for more networking and problem solving amongst our members directly, and we feel this allows our membership to have a bigger voice in the direction of this association.


WR:  You've been with the WSRCA for quite a while.  How long?  Why did you join the association?


Fry: I joined the WSRCA in 2004.  I was looking for valuable information and new product ideas, and I had tried a couple of the other associations.  I'm still a member of those associations, but I didn't feel like I was getting the information I was looking for at the time.  The WSRCA had, and still has, a well-balanced trade show with both steep-slope and low-slope exhibitors.


WR:  As the new president, what are your immediate goals?  What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?


Fry: One of my immediate goals is to reactivate the Former Presidents Council, who will be tasked this year to make recommendations for the revision of the WSRCA bylaws and policies.  We are not the same organization today as we were when those bylaws and policies were adopted.  I believe it is in the best long-term interest of the association to have updated and current best practices in place.  I am also looking forward to continuing the efforts started by Baker and the 2016-17 Board in the new membership drive program.  I also hope we can do our part in consulting with other industry associations.  The vision is that we are better able to tackle large issues that affect our industry as a whole when we work side by side with other industry organizations.


WR:  How is the 2017 convention shaping up?


Fry: As in the past, the staff and directors have put together a great program for this year.  The expo will once again be held at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in June.  It will be exciting and educational for all those who attend.  We have some cutting-edge seminars, and due to the demand, we have expanded the trade floor to accommodate new exhibitors as well.  This is a must-see event for contractors who are serious about getting the most up-to-date information in the industry.  We also plan to have some fun along the way with the return of The Roofing Games™ and the welcome party/lively silent auction.


WR:  A year from now, what do you want people to say about your term in office?


Fry: I'm not really sure what they will say, but I hope to continue the forward progress towards making this the best regional organization for our membership and the industry.  I want to honor the time and effort that the 2017-18 Board of Directors will have committed to giving, to make this a successful year.  I am also honored to do my part for the next 12 months to continue the vision of an organization that has become a valuable business tool for our membership.  See y'all at the expo.

Reprinted from May/June 2017, Volume 40 Number 3