It takes courage to start a business, and determination to keep it going. After doing so for 45 years, Progressive Roofing Inc. has much to celebrate. Established in 1948 by Bill Farrell and his father Albert Farrell as part of a larger network of businesses owned by the Farrell family, Progressive was founded in 1978, specializing in commercial, institutional, and industrial roofing.
While its main industry 30 years ago was roofing, the company now also offers waterproofing, architectural sheet metal, general sheet metal, asbestos abatement for roof-related projects, lightweight insulating concrete roof decking, and a host of other services. Embracing a well-founded reputation as the best roofing and waterproofing business in the nation, Progressive employees are committed to producing superior product with safety a top priority.
What started as a tiny business headquartered in New York has since expanded to more than 1,200 employees, tens of thousands of happy clients, more than 40 branch offices coast-to-coast, and four generations of the Farrell family. From its beginnings, customer satisfaction, exceptional quality, and a supportive, family-friendly workplace have all been vital to the Farrell concept. The Farrells have continued to add to the foundation Bill Farrell laid, upholding the team’s status as certified and trained providers of every major roofing manufacturer. With commercial, industrial, and institutional roofing as well as roof maintenance all under the umbrella of Progressive’s areas of expertise, the company offers a variety of products including EPDM, thermos-plastic single-ply, modified bitumen, shingle, tile, slate, solar panel, and green, to name a few.
“We were founded by Bill and Mark Farrell,” says Estimator Nick Hadden. “Mark is the middle child of three brothers, and Bill and his dad are the ones who own Ferrell and sons. He ended up having three boys and around 1978 when all the boys were in their 20s, there was an opportunity to come to Arizona and service APS, a large service provider here in Arizona. Mark moved here in ‘78, and founded it with his father.”
From those beginnings, the company grew, and now as part of a major, national business with significant purchasing power, Progressive can offer customers exceptional product at reasonable prices. Despite being a global business, the company also actively maintains a significant local presence, making it possible to handle any necessary repairs or urgent maintenance right away.
“Now we’ve been a staple here in Phoenix,” Hadden says. “We started out with one contract and really focused on building here locally, with a heavy focus on customer service in regards to the commercial side of the business, and focused a lot on developing in communities. We’ve got a large share of the work; we’re pretty diverse, but we take a lot of pride in our work on schools, with K-12 and secondary education.”
Progressive also has a number of high-tech and high-visibility projects under its belt, including stadiums, police stations, and its 2018 Project of the Year, the rebuilding of the New Orleans VA Medical Center after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. While the company is proud of all its projects, this one is particularly special. As an homage to numerous veterans, the center supports and commemorates as well as provides a reflection of the tenacity of New Orleans residents. The New Orleans VA Medical Center was named the “Project of the Year” in 2018 by the Project Management Institute, a group that honors significant projects valued at more than $100 million. As the general contractor, Progressive Roofing was pleased and proud to collaborate on the joint venture between Architect Studio Nova and Clark McCarthy for an important project that lasted almost five years.
It’s those types of unique projects that some commercial contractors try to steer clear of but which Progressive Roofing loves to take on, as evidenced by the Equinox Gym’s rooftop pool in Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, a truly challenging feat. A rooftop pool must be able to manage not only constantly ponding water, but also an exceptionally large volume of water, in contrast to other roofing systems where the design is intended to eliminate or limit ponding of water. Using Sika Sarnafil’s waterproofing solution created for the pool application at Equinox Gym, Progressive primed the pool walls and decking with conditioner before work could begin. Sarnafil G476 membrane installation then took place after vector mapping and testing by a separate contractor to ensure correct allayment. This was then hot-air welded, followed by the installation of a loosely laid Sarnafil drainage panel called Geonet B and a PVC protective layer. If it sounds complex, that’s because it is—but it’s all part of the Progressive Roofing mantra.
“We look for the challenges,” says Hadden. “The harder the project, the better for us.”
Those challenges couldn’t be met and overcome, however, without the company’s stellar employees, including its educated, adaptable, versatile, and innovative project team, a crucial component of Progressive’s high-quality work. As testament to the project team’s extensive education and expertise, every significant roofing manufacturer in the sector has approved Progressive as an authorized installer.
Along with its decades of success, at the heart of the company is family, and being a family-owned business has greatly impacted that success over the years.
“That’s been our core DNA,” says Hadden. “It was started in 1948 with the father-son relationship, and that’s kind of carried on.”
The family connection also applies to Hadden himself, who is a second-generation employee at Progressive following his father’s lead, who started at the company in 1988. It’s a familiar story, one repeated over and over throughout the company’s history, he says.
“We’ve got quite a few families here that have at least two if not multiple generations, all the way from the roofing level into the management side,” he says. “That’s really who we are and how we go about the business; we treat each other like family.”
All families face their share of challenges, of course, and when it comes to Progressive, Hadden loops back to the importance of the company’s upcoming 45th anniversary and how difficult it is for any business to make it this far, especially given the events of the past few years.
“It’s tough to be in business for 45 years. That’s challenge number one,” he says. “It’s about survival for a business every day and we were able to survive in the market regardless of what changes have come. We’ve survived a couple economic collapses and housing crises,” not to mention the COVID pandemic.
Progressive has also survived some “pretty heavy” changes in relevant legislation over the years, including how immigration has changed hiring practices. As a federal contractor and a company of its size, Progressive verifies every employee that comes on board but, adds Hadden, that’s not necessarily how all businesses start. “So that was always a struggle and one that we’ve overcome and we’re really taking pride in how we’ve done that,” Hadden says. “We try to be helpful to people and their challenges, whether it has to do with their citizenship status or their medical status.”
Operating in a high-risk sector, the company prioritizes employee health and safety while performing exemplary work. “We take pride in being one of the safest and healthiest in Arizona,” says Hadden. “And we demonstrate that with our EMR rates, our ongoing training, and our focus first on safety, making sure that everyone gets the ability to come home to their family every day.”
This all ties back to Progressive’s overall family mentality, he adds. “That’s rule number one: go home, spend time with your family, get through the day and survive another day.”
Challenges are inevitable when a company has been in business as long as Progressive has, he adds. “There have been many trials and tribulations that have brought us to where we’re at, and that’s probably one of our best success stories—how flexible we’ve been able to be with markets and different situations that come up, and how we adapt and overcome.”
COVID, of course, has been the most recent challenge Progressive has faced, bringing supply chain issues, staffing issues, and various struggles across the board. Some of these challenges proved very difficult when adding masks and gloves into the equation, as the roofing profession in general has its own specific hazards.
“We’ve got guys that are on roofs and we always try to shut down early before some of the intense heat, but it’s hard to avoid high temperatures and roofing. And then on top of that, having to maintain a safe work environment,” Hadden says. “COVID brought a different type of ‘safe’ along with some big projects that ended up being pushed back or cancelled.”
Despite some setbacks, Progressive has persevered. To successfully execute any project, open communication is crucial, whether it’s between employees, management, or clients, and Progressive Roofing has managed to execute all of this while still adhering to its family philosophy and delivering quality projects from start to finish.
As in any family, facing challenges together “makes us stronger,” says Hadden. “We’ve grown and currently we’re at 1,200 employees, and we try to keep that mentality that we’re always going to be a family business. That’s just the way we act and treat each other right.”