October 11, 2022 at 1:00 p.m.

By Heidi J. Ellsworth.

Quarry field trips, meaninful discussions, Vermont leaves and splitting tiles were just some of the highlights of this annual conference.

RoofersCoffeeShop® had the great pleasure and honor to be a part of the 2022 National Slate Association (NSA) annual conference. What an amazing experience! The roofing contractors and suppliers associated with the NSA emulate the best of the best in roofing. The craftsmanship required to install slate roofs and cladding is impressive while the dedication to the historical value of their projects takes the industry to a whole new level. 

The conference started out with a field trip to two quarries in Vermont. The first stop was at the Rupe Slate Company, a family owned quarry that still produces slate roofing with traditional equipment. We were able to see the quarry and witness how they transported to the mill and turn slabs into roofing tiles. Attendees were able to actually split off tiles from slabs using a chisel and hammer. The views were phenomenal, and we were able to see the glory of the leaves changing in Vermont. It was spectacular!

We then visited Newmont Slate. A larger operation that has been milling slate for over 100 years. Bob Williams, a generational quarry owner, shared the history of his family business and the slate business overall. The Slate Valley is about six miles wide and has been producing slate in various colors including black, grey, green, red and purple since 1948. The Newmont quarry, which at one point employed over 5,000 employees, now employs closer to 100 due to labor shortages and modernization with new equipment. 

In fact, many of the quarries are modernizing. According to Jon Hill of Greenstone Slate, a quarry in Poultney, Vermont, it is critical to work with slate quarries internationally to share knowledge and help grow the U.S. market with new machinery. Working with Julian Calvo, director of Be Natural®, a slate import/export company, they have been able to grow relationships with quarries in Spain where they have been developing machines and processes to not only improve productivity but help with safety and the quality of the work experience for employees for decades. 

What does all of this mean for the roofing industry? Without the technologies that were shown and discussed at the conference, the shortage of slate for roofing could become a real issue. But although there are still concerns in the supply chain for slate, roofing contractors learned that solutions are in place and making a difference. 

On the same labor issue, while visiting the Slate Museum in Granville, New York, Jared Ribble with the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) spoke on the new ProCertification program for slate. The Slate Roofing Contractors Association (SRCA), NSA and NRCA spent valuable time before the conference working on a new certification program for slate installers. Attendees at the conference were able to get a preview of the program that should launch in May 2023. This program is key to helping with the need for skilled labor in slate roofing as it is in the overall roofing industry. The opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the exceptional craftsmen and women of slate roofing through certification will help attract more young people to the trade. 

Bob Pringle of Evans Roofing, and the current president of NSA, welcomed attendees on the second day of the conference. The day was filled with discussion on how to grow the slate roofing industry and how to continue to tell the story of the beauty of slate. The incoming president, Tom Stortz of John Stortz and Sons, presented on technical, marketing and membership opportunities and updates. The discussion over labor, supply chain and other critical issues ended the day leaving attendees ready for the next stages of working to improve the industry overall. 

To learn more about the National Slate Association and become a member visit their RoofersCoffeeShop Directory.

About Heidi

Heidi is the president of the Coffee Shop and has been working in roofing for a quarter of a century and still loves it. Her number one passion is her family, working with her husband Tim and following the amazing careers of James, Annaliese and Megan. She also consults with the Roofing Alliance and is active in the industry as a founder of National Women in Roofing (NWIR) and one of the founders of Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3).

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