Tradespeople of Calgary: Mike Port

Calgary Tradesman

It feels good to be recognized, but all to often the commitment and dedication of hard-working tradespeople is overlooked. That’s why Tradeslife has undertaken an exciting new project focused on telling the stories of exceptional tradespeople in the community.

When Tradeslife began talking to people in the community seeking respected tradespeople, Mike Port, a professional roofer, came to the fore. Roofing is a competitive business. In fact, Calgary’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) has nearly two thousand roofing companies listed in its Accredited Business Directory, but few of these companies can say they’ve been in the business as long as Mike Port.

Mike is a survivor, and has seen more than a few cycles of boom and bust. Born and raised in Calgary, Mike’s history as a tradesman goes all the way back to the 1970s when he started working with his stepfather’s general contracting company. Shortly thereafter, Mike’s stepfather introduced him to Joe, a roofer.

“I think my stepfather was trying to scare me into going back to school,” Mike laughs. “It didn’t work. I actually really liked the work and got along good with Joe, the guy who was teaching me.”

“I think my stepfather was trying to scare me into going back to school,” Mike laughs. “It didn’t work. I actually really liked the work and got along good with Joe, the guy who was teaching me.”

Joe put Mike through his paces, carrying bundle after bundle of shingles up to the roof. Paying your dues is something that every master tradesperson goes through. It was no different for Mike.

“Joe said, ‘you carry up enough shingles and I’ll show you how to put’em on’,” Mike says.

After nine months, Mike began doing piecework and was getting paid $2.75 to nail down a bundle of shingles.

“There were about twenty shingles per bundle, and we used four nails per shingle.”
You needed to be pretty fast to make good money.

“There were about twenty shingles per bundle, and we used four nails per shingle.”
You needed to be pretty fast to make good money.

In the early 1980s, Mike left the roofing business for a while, but not completely.

“I had an opportunity to go to work for AGT, so I started out doing cable work and then got into working in the city doing installs.”

When the privatization of AGT began, Mike decided it was time to move on. Luckily, his brother had continued to work in roofing, so it was an easy transition.

“While I was with the phone company I still did odd jobs roofing and kept at it. So when I left it was very easy for me to say, hey, wanna work together?” Mike says.

Obviously, much has changed in the roofing industry since then. Mike has seen improvements in training, worker safety and technology. In September 2011, he decided it was time to hang out his own shingle. Foothills Roofing Inc. was born.

Roofing Project by Foothills Roofing

A recently completed roofing project by Foothills Roofing Inc.

As a business owner, Mike says using the right tools and the best products is of paramount importance.

“We used to use stable guns back then and it didn’t really hold down the shingles all very well,” Mike explains. “Now we use pneumatic nail guns, which don’t jam up like the old ones, and 1 ¼ inch nails with the big head on it.”

“We used to use stable guns back then and it didn’t really hold down the shingles all very well,” Mike explains. “Now we use pneumatic nail guns, which don’t jam up like the old ones, and 1 ¼ inch nails with the big head on it.”

The shingles have also improved. As Mike points out, ten-year warranties have increased to fifty-year warranties due to longer product life expectancies.

Besides changes in technology, Mike points to changes in training and safety regulations as positive improvements in the industry. Accidents can and do happen. In 1995 he took a tumble off a roof and broke his arm. Nowadays accidents are less frequent because most roofers adhere to new safety codes.

“Back then, the safety equipment was pretty crappy too,” Mike says.

Breaking his arm in the 90s turned out to be blessing in disguise, because it meant he was able to work in the office. It afforded him a chance to learn about the business side of roofing including processing insurance claims, providing estimates and customer service. By the mid 2000s, Mike was working with a team of 17 crews.

Mike says ownership/management changes inside the company he was working for provided the catalyst to found his own company. Since 2011 Foothills Roofing Inc. has been growing slowly but steadily.

“We do everything from single family homes to condominium projects,” Mike says. “We’re completing three or four of those a week.”

After nearly 40 years, Mike says he still loves his job. It’s hard work, but being a tradesperson also comes with a lot of freedom. Being able to work outdoors is also a plus.

“Sometimes you can get your work done early in the day and then take the afternoon off. Enjoy the nice weather,” Mike says.

“Sometimes you can get your work done early in the day and then take the afternoon off. Enjoy the nice weather,” Mike says.

What’s next for Mike is a question mark. He plans to continue doing what he loves and taking each day at a time. As a tradesperson, Mike shows a clear passion for his work, and by reputation he can be a bit of a perfectionist. However, what really sets Mike apart is the fact that he’s been working at such a high level for so long.

As a tradesperson, longevity is a gift, one Mike has put to good use.

If you know a tradesperson who deserves some recognition for his or her hard work, please contact us. We’d love to tell the story.

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  • Ronald

    It’s nice to see someone telling stories about real tradesmen in Calgary. Keep up the good work!