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How the Ukraine War Impacts Roofers and OSHA's Big Surprise

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This Q&A with Trent Cotney explains why the roofing industry now has an "army" of legal support and expertise. Additionally, the ubiquitous industry speaker, writer and all-around expert talks about what’s keeping him up night—and what’s giving him hope for 2022.

Trent Cotney, NRCA General Counsel and well-known industry expert, recently announced a major change to his law firm. After 10 years as an independent firm, Cotney Construction Law LLP has joined forces with Adams & Reese LLP in Tampa, Florida.

As part of the deal, a total of 16 attorneys from the Cotney firm joined Adam and Reese’s current roster of 58 construction attorneys and takes the group to 75—making it one of the largest construction practices in the nation.

But what does the change mean for the roofing industry? In this Q&A, Cotney answers that question, along with why he decided to make the move. Additionally, the ubiquitous industry speaker, writer and all-around expert talks about what’s keeping him up night—and what’s giving him hope for 2022.

Why did you decide to make this move to a larger firm?

When I set up my own firm 10 years ago, I created a strategic plan of where I wanted to be three, five and 10 years down the line. The idea was at 10 years, I would see what the market would bear. So, this move to Adams & Reese not only made a lot of sense, but it also made sense for me personally. Before, I was finding myself doing more and more of the mundane tasks of owning a business. Now I can focus on what I’m really good at.

How will this move to a larger firm benefit the roofing industry as a whole?

Because of this move, I now have tremendous resources I didn’t have before. We had a tremendous first-string team, but after a while on larger cases, there wasn’t a second or third string team. Now we have enough lawyers, capability and strength and depth that will allow us in the roofing space to rely on expertise we might not have had before. A great example is we had a very complicated issue related to insurance captives. Here there are people who do that every day. Same goes for a franchise. Literally, anything you can think of in the practice of law there’s at least one expert for it here. I went from being a battalion of a team to being a general in an army. That’s crucial in high-stakes disputes and transactions.

What are you tracking on the regulatory front?

OSHA is in the process of new rulemaking to update the design and construction requirements for powered industrial trucks, which includes forklifts. We were concerned that the new updates would be retroactively applied, which would mean that roofers would have to update old equipment. But looks like OSHA is now going to grandfather in old equipment. And that’s a a huge boon to roofers! Can you imagine if you had to update all your old forklifts?

What’s keeping you up at night from an industry standpoint?

What I’m seeing out of Ukraine causes me concern, especially as it relates to oil and gas prices.  Normally, we see higher prices in those commodities, and then that trickles down to components. So, a lot of the petroleum-based products we use are going to continue to skyrocket in cost. Economic weakness and inflationary pressures were bad enough, but now you have this war—and all it takes is a few wrong moves before we’re in a world war. If interest rates skyrocket and the ability to obtain money becomes more difficult, that will have a serious impact on roofing.

What’s making you optimistic?

I don’t know if COVID is over. But the cause for some happiness is that I think that level of shutdown we went through is gone. Even if this variant spikes again, the public has had enough of draconian methods, and it’ll be more up to the individual to decide how they want to handle it. From a construction standpoint, I don’t see any regulation that’s going to come down the pike that will affect business the way it did before from a COVID standpoint.

 

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