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Roofing company gives high school students taste of industry

Riverview High School students watch Sutter Roofing employees conduct a demonstration.
Riverview High School students watch Sutter Roofing employees conduct a demonstration.
Photo by Mark Gordon
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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A Sarasota roofing company is paving the way for students to enter its workforce.

Sutter Roofing, with a facility off of Fruitville Road east og Interstate 75, hosted nearly 50 students from Riverview High School’s construction technology program Friday to introduce them to the company and industry as a whole.

“One of the best things about this industry is it’s tangible — you get to see what you worked on at the end of every day,” Sutter Roofing President Doug Sutter says. “If you’re just shuffling papers around a desk, you don’t get that. Roofing is just a great industry.”

In fact, he says that roofing was a $198 billion industry in 2023 and is projected to grow to $344 billion by 2033. “The roofing industry is growing and it’s a stable industry,” Sutter says. “Everybody knows you’ve got to have a roof over your head.”

Recent major projects Sutter Roofing has worked on include the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport terminal expansion, Selby Gardens and Sarasota Memorial Hospital projects, among many others, Sutter tells the Business Observer. “We like working on community landmarks,” he says. 

Sutter says he has a “special affinity” for Riverview High School since his four children went there, his mother taught there for 19 years, and his company installed the roof at the school.

His two sons who graduated from Riverview also work for Sutter Roofing; Nick is a production manager, while Chris is a business development manager.

They are not the only Riverview alumni on staff.

Branson Chrisman, foreman supervisor and operator at Sutter Roofing, says he did not go to college and instead “started life young” at age 17 while attending Riverview. Now he has been working for the company for 10 years.

“This is really a good company, and a good field, to get started in,” Chrisman says. “This company really helped me progress as a young adult.”

Asked how he worked his way up, Chrisman says to keep an “open-mind mindset” about doing tasks that other people may not want to do.

“You have to be willing to prove yourself and be willing to push yourself to do things you wouldn’t think you are capable of doing,” Chrisman says.

Sutter Roofing has 267 employees at its four locations – in Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers – according to Human Resources Paula Manager Paula Pelaez. It had $82.78 million in revenue in 2023, up 67.74% from $49.35 million in 2022.  

Doug Sutter's father, Stephen Sutter, founded the Florida version of the company in 1979, while the Sutter family has been in roofing since 1902 in West Virginia. When Doug Sutter joined his dad at the Florida company in 1989 there were 25 employees.

Now, as the company continues to grow, it aims to reach potential workers considering their options.

“Our goal is to expose the kids that are not looking to go to college to the idea that there is another path,” Pelaez says of the April 19 Riverview event. In addition to hearing about the company, students got to experience hands-on demonstrations.

Riverview High School started its construction technology program during the 2022–2023 school year. It immediately filled up with 60 students and had another 60 on the waitlist, sister publication reported.



Elizabeth King

Elizabeth is a business news reporter with the Business Observer, covering primarily Sarasota-Bradenton, in addition to other parts of the region. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she previously covered hyperlocal news in Maryland for Patch for 12 years. Now she lives in Sarasota County.

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