Raising the Bar

Arcosanti, Inc. is a unique name befitting a unique company. The name stems from the words “architecture” and “ecology,” both of which have been passions for decades for local owner and Omaha native Scott Tafoya. What started as a roofing company has grown to include gutters, siding, and now custom, high-end windows. But what sets Arcosanti apart in an industry filled with similar businesses is the philosophy on which Tafoya has built his company and reputation for more than 20 years.

Joking that he must be the most over-educated roofer in the country, Tafoya earned a degree in architecture from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and then went on to earn his MBA and worked toward a Master’s degree in architecture. However, while working for an architecture firm, he realized he’d rather build what he was drawing, so he started Arcosanti Homes. He was the first in Omaha to build an Energy Star home followed by the first green-certified home, and served as the president of the Nebraska Green Builders Association for 10 years.

After a successful run in home building, the housing market bubble burst, and Tafoya “lost everything.” He started over by working for a local contractor, installing roofs, siding, decks, cabinets—anything that came along. During the process he learned a lot about the insurance claims side too. He eventually went out on his own, and installed five roofs his first year, working out of his truck with his dog by his side. Last year—only four years later—Arcosanti installed 350 roofs and has a dozen team members.

Admittedly, the rapid growth has made Tafoya uncomfortable at times. “I was extremely nervous to grow beyond something I could sustain,” he said. “I don’t want to lose everything twice.” Hiring other experts in the industry and trusting them to manage sales has enabled Tafoya to transition from salesman to CEO, so that he can focus on running the company. He also recognized that sustainability in the roofing industry meant storm-proofing it, so he decided to venture into a window division led by Scott Mann, who researched and found Wisconsin-based Kolbe windows, which specializes in high-end, custom full replacement windows.

Going forward Tafoya would like to have the siding and window divisions be the company’s bread and butter, with roofing supplementing the business as it comes. Omaha has seen its fair share of hailstorms, so there are lots of new roofs in town, and as insurance coverage decreases and deductibles go up, the industry will become increasingly more difficult. There is also the battle against a low standard in the roofing industry. Tafoya said while there are a number of other reputable roofers in town, there are many who aren’t. Arcosanti employs salaried people, not commissioned, who share his values and uphold the reputation and integrity that Tafoya, and his father before him, built locally. “I would never embarrass my father by conducting business in a way that he wouldn’t conduct his own business,” he said.

In fact, Tafoya is part of a network of other roofers from around the country who are like-minded. They install better products, don’t use canvasing techniques in neighborhoods to gain sales, instead working mainly with referrals, and employing professional, family-oriented people. “There’s less competition at the top, and that’s where we want to be,” he said. Having a green company is also still important to Tafoya. Using better products ensures that it won’t end up torn down and in a landfill in 10 years. Solar roofs would be his ideal, but unfortunately the Midwest doesn’t lend itself to that yet.

Technology is another focus for Arcosanti. Tafoya said he was one of the first roofers to obtain his insurance adjustor’s license as well as become licensed to fly a drone for roof inspections. He also purchased an Equipter for debris removal, which enables them to access the back of a home without tearing up landscaping. They also offer financing for windows and siding, a trend that will continue to increase. Tafoya said the biggest area for growth will be commercial projects. He said it takes time and patience to break into it, but Arcosanti paid its dues and has proven itself with smaller projects so now larger opportunities have opened up.

All that Arcosanti offers boils down to one thing: trust. Tafoya said you can trust them to do what they say they’ll do and they will stand behind it. “We’re not going anywhere, and we’re easy to find. We all live in town, too. We own our building, are here all year long, and you can get a hold of us if you call. We’re easy to find. In this industry there is plenty of room for companies that operate with integrity.”

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