Roofers descend as fast as hailstones40 peddler’s licenses issued to 13 companies.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
Not long after dark skies returned to blue following last month’s hailstorm, the thumping of nail guns replaced the sound of falling hailstones on the roofs of many local homes.
When a storm May 5 dropped quarter- to golf-ball size hail on Mitchell, Cory Cumings, owner of Mitchell Roofing, Siding & Gutters, made plans for the many roof-repair jobs that would inevitably follow.
He and his crews were out doing temporary repairs for homeowners not long after the storm subsided, and Cumings was prepared for more. He bought 100 truckloads of new shingles “straight from the factory,” worth about $2 million, in anticipation of the work ahead. But he wasn’t the only one preparing.
Since May 14, the city of Mitchell has issued about 40 peddler’s licenses to employees from 13 roofing companies. The license, which costs $50 and must be renewed every seven days, is required of anyone selling goods or services door-to-door in Mitchell. The license is only needed for door-to-door sales and not during the actual roof repair.
Cumings, whose company is based in Mitchell and began in 2000, is leery of the roofers who have poured into the city since the storm.
“You get a lot of shoddy work from out-of-state workers,” he said. “They leave with their money and they’re gone for good.”
He also said companies that sound local are not always as they appear. Cumings claims he was offered $20,000 plus $10 per square foot of roof laid by outsiders who wanted to use his company’s name. He turned down the offer.
“It’s taken me 10 to 12 years to get my name what it is. I’m not going to throw it away for a paycheck,” he said.
Cumings’ company has replaced 85 roofs in Mitchell since the hailstorm. He has heard, but adamantly denied, a rumor that has circulated since the storm about his company not actually being local.
“I’ve got more jobs in town than any other roofer, and I’ve got a big target on my back,” Cumings said. “People are blatantly lying.”
Cumings, who lives in rural Mitchell, has done construction work across South Dakota and elsewhere with his company in the past, but said he was usually referred to those out-of-state jobs by past customers.
Hoffman Weber Construction is a Minneapolis-based construction company with a presence in nine states. It opened a satellite office in Mitchell after the recent storm.
“That’s how we get our start in most locations,” said the company’s Chief Operations Officer Adam Brookins. “There usually has to be an event or a large influx of work in order to get us to start an office.”
He estimated 95 percent of Hoffman Weber’s business is in storm-related repairs.
Once the work in Mitchell is gone, Brookins said the company will probably open a new, more permanent location in Sioux Falls. He said a “good portion” of the crews and materials the company has now in Mitchell are from Sioux Falls. He added other Hoffman Weber crews travel between all the company’s locations as work demands.
“Our people will go anywhere we need them,” he said.
Hoffman Weber has replaced 25 roofs in Mitchell since the storm, and is finishing about 10 more each week, Meyer said.
Because of Hoffman Weber’s size and the relationships the company has developed with suppliers, Brookins said it can offer lifetime warranties many local companies are not able to compete with.
“The chances that any local company is going to be in business in 50 years probably isn’t very good … they’re massive companies that back our warranties,” Brookins said. “It makes it a little easier for us to make people happy.”
When coming to a new area, tension sometimes develops between Hoffman Weber and local companies, he added.
“The most that happens is we will hear people bad-mouthing our name,” he said. “It’s usually just because of a lack of understanding of our business and our business model.”
As an out-of-state company, Hoffman Weber was required to get a South Dakota excise tax license before it could start any work in Mitchell. According to Jan Talley, director of the Business Tax Division of the state Department of Revenue, out-of-state companies must apply with her department to get an excise tax license. The license is issued one month at a time, and companies must provide the state with a bond of $5,000 plus $500 per employee, which is only returned after its taxes are paid.
“I love paying taxes,” Brookins said. “It’s just a pass-through that helps the local economy.”
Premier Systems Inc., a Yanktonbased company, also opened an office in Mitchell after the storm.
“We don’t chase after storms, but the storms allow the company a lot of work in an area,” said Premier Systems President Scott Meyer. He also runs similar construction companies in Minnesota and Oklahoma.
The stability of storm-related work is a draw for Meyer and his company.
“It’s a lot more stable work to have an insurance claim where you know you’re going to get paid, rather than trying to sell to residents for additions or improvements,” Meyer said.
Storm damage can provide businesses with the customer base needed to become a local company, he said, but the amount of work will always determine which companies stay and which choose to leave.
“We choose to support the markets we choose to be in,” he said. “Whether we’re there year-round is another issue.”
JRD Roofing, also based in Yankton, did very little work in Mitchell before the storm, but with fewer jobs available nearby, coowner Adam Kelsey saw the storm in Mitchell as opportunity for more work. Though the majority of JRD Roofing’s business is done in Yankton, Kelsey is no stranger to Mitchell.
“My whole family is from here. My grandmother lived here for 80 years,” he said.
Kelsey said the company is steadfast when it comes to using its own workers, as opposed to hiring crews from out-of-state.
“Everybody that’s on our roof is employed by us. We don’t sell out to some crew in Texas.”
With thousands of area homes likely in need of some type of roofing repair, Mitchell Building Inspector John Hegg has been busy advising local and out-of-state roofers, insurance agents and homeowners about the city’s building codes. Hegg said he has done between 150 and 175 roof inspections since the storm, and will continue to do 15 to 20 each day with so many roofers in town.
He said many of the roofers coming to Mitchell from out of town are quick to come to his office and introduce themselves.
“I haven’t had any problems. They do good work,” Hegg said. “It’s going to take some extra roofers in town to get this many roofs done.”
Hegg has simple advice for residents looking for a roofer: “Do your homework.”
He recommended homeowners get a few bids before making a decision, and always check a roofer’s references before hiring anyone. In the end, he said, any homeowner just needs to “take responsibility and be smart.”
“If they stick with somebody they know, they will probably be better off,” he said.