Her roofing company finds success in the construction boom

Just 2.2 percent of roofers in the United States are female, according to U.S. Census Bureau data compiled by Data USA. But at Highland Roofing, a local commercial roofing company, the top position is held by a woman.

Jeanette Omdalen is leading the company toward growth as its CEO. Omdalen, along with her husband, Jamie Schmidt, who serves as chief financial officer, moved to North Carolina in late 2021 after purchasing the Highland Roofing business.

The couple had backgrounds in finance, consulting, operations and the industrial B2B sector – but they decided they wanted to purchase a company. They landed on Highland Roofing after a nationwide search.

Since then, the company has been in growth mode, Omdalen said, particularly in the Triangle. Highland’s offices are in Wilmington and Garner.

Some of the company’s notable local projects include work at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Wake Technical Community College, Research Triangle Park, USA Baseball and N.C. State University. Those projects fall into three categories of business done by Highland: new construction, rebirth and service.

What made Highland attractive to you? We were looking for a good team. I am definitely a people-focused operator and Highland had by far, for its size, the best team across the board that I’ve ever seen. We were so impressed with the entire team from entry-level positions to the founders and senior management.

What has changed since you took over? Over the past two years, we’ve really invested in our team. Despite the coronavirus and supply chain issues, particularly in the construction and roofing industry specifically, Highland has actually been able to grow more than 20 percent every single year. We’ve almost doubled our workforce with a lot of that growth coming from Raleigh. There are over 25 full-time employees based out of Raleigh. We have more than 60 full-time employees in total.

Closer Look

Title: CEO of Highland Roofing

Education: B.A., business administration and finance, University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota

Family: Husband, Jamie Schmidt

First job: Life guard at the YMCA. Put herself through college running the aquatic programs for two YMCAs.

How did the pandemic affect Highland? It was interesting because during the pandemic, nothing, particularly on the service side, changed. On the new construction side, supply chains were disrupted, and our lead times went from three weeks to 12 months sometimes. So that really put a lot of pressure on our production team that does the rebirth and the new construction part of our business. And it was because of their knowledge and expertise in the roofing industry that we were able to successfully navigate those supply chain disruptions. We had a pretty good year in the pandemic despite the supply chain challenges. We definitely had to get creative and try to source materials from different places.

Over the next 12 to 18 months, we see new construction slowing down slightly, but North Carolina seems to be in a much better position than the rest of the United States.

On the slowdown, is it the number of projects or the size of projects that is down? During the pandemic, you would see a lot of new construction of very large warehouses. Those speculative warehouses built without a signed tenant, work on those has definitely slowed down. I think we’re normalizing toward a good long-term growth trajectory for North Carolina overall.

We feel really optimistic. It’s one of the reasons why we have our three different business lines. Even within new construction, we work with private developers, and then we have public new construction. We have our re-roof and we have our service business, and those create a diversified portfolio for us that helps us in terms of navigating any sort of negative macroeconomic headwinds.

We actually feel really optimistic about the next 12 to 18 months. Our biggest challenge actually is recruiting team members. There’s a labor shortage, and that labor shortage is definitely hitting the construction roofing industry.

What are your goals for the coming years? Broadly, our goal is to make sure that we can service our existing customer base, which we tend to follow and grow with as they grow, and they are definitely growing in the North Carolina region.

We expect to grow our geographic footprint long-term in North Carolina and in the surrounding states. We definitely try to make sure that we follow our clients where they go and where they grow, and that tends to be where we find the most success. Our long-term vision is to continue building on the success that Highland has had over the past 10 to 15 years, which includes some geographic expansion with serious focus regionally in North Carolina.

We spend a lot of time ensuring that we get younger folks, and one of my long-term projects is to help drive participation in the young workforce. We’re definitely looking for and always recruiting folks from a variety of different backgrounds. And that, for me, is going to be a decade-plus project on building the next generation of roofers.

You’ve lived in several different states before North Carolina. What’s your favorite? North Carolina is definitely by far our favorite place that we’ve ever lived. This is definitely our long-term home.

And we spend an equal amount of time right now between Wilmington and Raleigh.

I’m originally from Minnesota. My husband is originally from Ohio. And I think we’ll both agree that Minnesota winters are challenging, but since it’s our hometown, it’s definitely a soft spot for us.


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