Where Quality Is Through the Roof

Dowd Roofing
Written by Allison Dempsey

Not many companies can say they’re local, family-run, and close to a century old, but Dowd Roofing checks all three of these admirable boxes.

Formed in 1933 and incorporated as William P. Dowd and Sons in 1966, Dowd Roofing Inc. has been a prominent player in the roofing and construction sectors in the province of New Brunswick for decades. To meet growing demand, Dowd Home Improvements Ltd. was established in 2004 as a dedicated supplier and installer of shingle roofs, residential windows, doors, siding, and decking.

Committed to every customer
From installing sophisticated materials on large commercial, industrial, and institutional facilities to constructing basic porch roofs, Dowd Roofing treats each project with care, attention, and professionalism.

Utilizing 20,000 square feet of storage space at its warehouse and 25 service trucks in its fleet, the company’s experienced and skilled employees assist their clients throughout the Maritimes on a variety of projects.

“Dowd Roofing is the commercial side of our business and does a lot of industrial, commercial, and institutional work such as hospitals, schools, pulp and paper mills, and refineries—any type of large commercial warehouses, reroofing apartment buildings, new construction of buildings, and shopping malls,” says General Manager Peter Wilson.

With an abundance of apartment buildings going up in Saint John at present, the company has been involved in quite a few new projects. Dowd has worked with many large customers to reroof their facilities over stages such as Market Square in Saint John, which is a large retail operation in the heart of Saint John. Bruce Dowd explains that the company put the roof on the original construction of Market Square in 1982, and in fact Dowd Roofing has worked on many buildings that were roofed in the original construction phase by Dowd Roofing.

Another satisfying project was the roofing of St. Joseph’s Hospital, one of the larger hospitals in Saint John.

Good projects, good staff
As far as servicing its customers goes, Dowd Roofing goes above and beyond, as evidenced by its longevity and success in the industry. “We’ve been around a long time, and we have a lot of older customers and repeat business as well,” says Wilson.

Dowd Roofing also has a higher-than-usual number of long-term employees, a reflection of its commitment to working with and caring for all its employees in every way it can.

“We’re a good company that way,” says Bruce Dowd. “We have people who need flexible time and time off for whatever reason, and we can do it. If they need some support around their family, we can help them with that.”

That support of employees is also evident in the company’s steady growth over the years: it currently has approximately 65 full-time employees including operations, an accounting staff, and maintenance.

“We try to do everything internally in our business. If we need to fix pieces of equipment, we do that internally,” says Wilson. “We have our own boom truck and our own container truck for garbage and refuse. We have a lot of depth in people such as our project management team and estimators, with close to 100 years of combined experience in our project management team.”

Dowd also has a team of around 35 roofers on the commercial side, many of whom have been with the company for 40 years or more. Those long-term employees are testament to the quality of Dowd Roofing’s management and its commitment to continuous improvement—not to mention its policy of growing its employee base via an apprenticeship program.

Training, learning, growing
Through apprenticeship and professional development of its employees, Dowd continues to grow. “The apprenticeship program is run by the province,” Wilson explains. Essentially, “we hire someone off the street; they work for so many hours and go to school for six weeks. Then they come back to us for another year, then go back to school for six weeks. They do that until they become a Red Seal journeyman, or registered tradesman, if you will.” This process typically takes about three to four years.

Dowd Roofing has progressed steadily over the years from five or six apprentices to 16 or 17 now. Enticing younger people into the trades is an ongoing challenge across all fields, and apprenticeships are an excellent and proven way to bring new workers into the fold.

Becoming aware, several years ago, that its succession planning with regard to its tradespeople was a bit lacking, the company set about bringing in suitable candidates, and those who showed interest in further training were enrolled in the apprenticeship program and became fully-fledged journeymen.

“We support continued education for those folks and promote the trades as strongly as we can,” Wilson says, adding that as a construction company, Dowd Roofing strives to make safety a top priority.

“Five or six years ago, we might have hired a bunch of labourers and if we didn’t have the work, we just laid them off,” he says. “Now we hire labourers and they become apprentices; we try to keep them working to get them through the program so they can become our long-term employees and become a stable presence in the business.”

To better address that ongoing shortage of skilled tradespeople, working to promote the genuine benefits of trades—including salary and paid training—is essential. “It’s good money,” Wilson says. “Someone with no experience at all can come in off the streets and do well right away and will earn even more upon completing the apprenticeship program of three to four years,” he explains. Once they obtain their Red Seal they can advance up to a foreman position or work anywhere in Canada in the roofing trade.

“We’ve had folks who aren’t sure what to do with their lives and are good with their hands, but they come in and learn a trade, become a contributor to the industry, learn other parts of the trades, go through the program to become a journeyman.”

This certainly goes for women as well: the company has supported women in the trades with summer students and the apprenticeship program.

Helping out
Along with helping to provide training, Dowd Roofing also steps up whenever there’s a need in the community, particularly when destructive weather strikes, such as a pre-Christmas storm that tore the roof off a local apartment building.

“We like to be under the radar, but we do have our own mobile boom truck, we have our own dumpster truck, and we have 35 roofers plus another dozen shingle guys,” Wilson says. “We have a crew of 45 people such that, when an extreme emergency like that roof blowing off happens, we can pivot quickly and service that customer the next morning. That roof blew off in the morning; we were there that afternoon looking at the situation and back on site in the morning tearing the roof up.” Being so close to Christmas just added to the urgency of helping out the community as quickly as possible.

“We have a good relationship with our customers,” Wilson adds, “so when we had to stop working on our customer’s roof that morning to send workers over to the roof that blew off, our customer was good about it because he knows we’d do it for them too. We did it as quickly as we could, and were back to the site we left as quickly as possible.”

With that level of commitment to both customers and employees, it seems certain that Dowd Roofing will only continue to build a reliable and skilled workforce over time.

“One of our biggest accomplishments is being able to grow our manpower here over the last six or seven years,” Wilson says. “We’ve been able to identify that that was one of our weaknesses. Now we bring people into the core of our business, figure out what their strengths are, put them through the programs that are best for them, and utilize them as a foreman or lead hand or a journeyman roofer.”

An attitude lives on
Wilson is also proud to be part of a team with a company that is locally owned by the family’s second generation.

“The owner, Bruce Dowd, lives here with the people that work for him, down the street and within a five-minute drive of his business,” he says. “He’s 83 years old and still comes in to see what’s happening; he still talks to the guys in the driveway. He still knows what’s going on when he comes in and talks to our project management and our accounting team here… It’s his passion.”

While Bruce Dowd doesn’t get involved in the day to day operations as much anymore and is trying to step back, he’s still very much a vital part of the business. “I think that’s a huge part of our success,” says Wilson. “His attitude drives the business. He’s well-known in the industry and has been involved in many projects.”

Dowd Roofing is also involved in the community in another important way: giving back through a variety of support initiatives ranging from fundraising for hospitals to donations to local food banks, soup kitchens, and churches.

“We don’t do it for the recognition; we do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Wilson says. “We try to help the community.”

Looking ahead, Dowd Roofing will continue to embrace its past, deriving success from treating employees and clients like family and supporting quality training and education.

“It’s all about the right people in the right seat; it’s not just about filling the seats,” says Wilson. “Not everybody’s meant to be a doctor or a roofer or lawyer or plumber, but if you can find the right person that’s passionate about whatever it is they’re going into, you have to nurture them and let them do it.”

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