Iain Fergusson’s future wasn’t clear when the teenager stood on top of his family’s sprawling farm, but he knew he loved being up there.
“I grew up in the southwest corner of Scotland on the farm that had been in my family for generations. It was a big, collapsing house that leaked every time it rained. “
He was sixteen before the family could scrape together enough money to pay some locals to repair the slate roof. ‘I went there and I loved it. It planted a seed. “
Thousands of miles and decades later, Fergusson’s Highland Roofing Co. 16 years of business in Wilmington.
Fergusson left his village with about 150 people in his early twenties after an American student he later married. The couple traveled and lived in various American cities. Then they had twins, and Fergusson viewed his life differently.
‘I had to take life seriously. I always had roofing in mind, ”he said.
Determined to give clients a quality job at a fair price, he took the experience he had gained at other companies and started Highland Roofing in 2005. Although they are no longer married, his ex-wife, Rebecca, remains his business partner.
The company started with an emphasis on metal roofing for homes.
“Looking back, I started the business without knowing much about roofing,” said Fergusson. “I learned a lot while working. I just followed my heart. I had people asking me about different types of roofing, so I had to learn gently and carefully on the job. “
For five years, Highland only did roofing for homes. After gaining experience in flat roofing materials, they moved into the commercial sector and hired an employee with specialized experience. In 2015, they acquired Hanover Iron Works, a local company with a century in business.
“I’ve inherited some great clients,” said Fergusson. “That made the decision to move away from residential areas.”
Since that decision, projects have included the Surf City Municipal Complex, The Harrelson Center, UNCW Dining Hall, Renaissance Apartments, Hawthorne at Oleander, Pawville, St. James Episcopal, and the award-winning redevelopment of the New Hanover County Government Center.
One of the projects that Fergusson has greatly enjoyed is the green roof on the county’s Juvenile Justice Center. “It’s nice when something new comes up and learns something interesting,” he said.
Green roofs contain a traditional roof membrane covered with a plant medium, such as soil, and live plants. One of the many advantages is that the plantings protect the roofing materials from ultraviolet light, so that the roof can last more years than the 20-year expectation of an exposed membrane, and that helps offset installation costs up front.
Fergusson said he also likes to work with liquid-applied roofing, which can be applied as a new roof or over an existing flat roof.
“The advantage is that you use the existing roof, which becomes a foundation; it’s not something that can be done on every roof, ”he said. “Sometimes the existing roof is not in good condition.”
There are circumstances where the old roof just needs some prep work to get it into shape. “It’s a win-win for everyone. Applied liquid is much less expensive than tearing off the existing material. Also, the exposure is much less, ”said Fergusson. “No opening of the building to the elements.”
He described it as monolithic with no seams, no overlaps, no edges or openings to deteriorate. “In 20 years, it can be cleaned and recoated,” he said.
Highlands repaired the 50,000-square-foot former StarNews building on South 17th Street after Hurricane Florence, which hit in 2018. Replacing the existing roof would have cost more than $ 1 million, Fergusson estimates.
Highland is a partner in Duke Energy’s commercial rebate program to improve the energy efficiency of structures, including the installation of a more reflective cool roof system.
Fergusson noted that Hurricane Florence was the company’s first real storm.
“It was a good experience for the company because it tested us to the limit,” he said. “We got to know our team. It was bedlam for six to nine months. “
The enormous workload allowed Fergusson to reorganize his workflow. “I am so proud of how efficient we are a team,” he said. “Every person has a certain role, and everyone is really good at it; everyone works well together. “
Their growth has included a move to the Raleigh market where they have estimators and project and construction managers. A test drive in the Myrtle Beach market resulted in customer acquisition, but these are now served from the Wilmington office.
“I am most proud of all our people and how good they are individually and together. The people are what defines my success. I am grateful to this community for the opportunities provided by referrals and repeat customers, ”said Fergusson.
He added: ‘I’ve always been very good at being honest about what I don’t know. I always took care of people as I would like. I appreciate that and the people I brought in for the success. It’s a good city. If you can get a good reputation, they’ll spread the word. ”