Karl Zidar, Territory Sales Manager at Westlake Royal Building Products
Karl Zidar has been active with the Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) for 15 years. In addition to his work in business development with Westlake Royal Building Products, he has served on VSI’s Workforce Development Management Committee (WDMC) since its inception, was one of our pioneers in lobbying for legislative reform in his home state of Georgia (he even spoke to a Senate committee six years ago) and is a VSI-certified installer and trainer.
“When Dave Verbofsky announced his retirement from Cornerstone, we felt that Karl was the natural choice to take over as our Workforce Development Management Committee chair,” said VSI President & CEO Kate Offringa. “From his long service on the WDMC to his hard work leading the installer certification classes, Karl has been a tremendous asset to our workforce development program.”
As WDMC chair, Karl aims to continue the tremendous progress initiated by former Workforce Development Senior Director Rob Balfanz.
“Rob did an amazing job of partnering with the trade schools, significantly increasing the number of VSI-certified installers and enhancing our overall training and certification program,” Karl said. “We updated everything over the past few years, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In 2024-25, we’ll have to update the installation instructions, so this year, we’ll be focused on re-certifying."
Certifying first-time installers hasn’t been a problem, "it’s getting our installers re-certified that’s the challenge," he noted.
Karl wants VSI’s WDMC to continue to have a strong presence at trade events and build relationships with more trade schools.
“We recruited and certified so many people during the COVID years, so we would like to develop a new strategy to build on this positive momentum,” he explained. “I would like to continue developing the trade show relationships and partnerships and provide quality service to these people. We’ve seen an uptick in the certified trainer programs, so these schools see the value of having these programs available.”
Karl will continue to lead installer certification courses in Georgia, as well as the virtual offerings.
“We’re getting 10-20 installers for our in-person classes, and the last virtual course I gave had 48 students, including many from Canada,” he noted.
Throughout his 15 years with VSI, Karl has been a part of a program that has evolved on so many levels, but he maintains that the focus remains the same: eliminate the bad installations.
“I don’t care what you put on your house; if you’re not installing it right, it’s not going to look good and you’re going to cause unnecessary damage,” Karl said. “This plagued the vinyl siding industry for decades. The installer is going to get the call when there’s damage, so you might as well do it right the first time. VSI and our industry have done an amazing job minimizing subpar installations.”
Karl is proud of the committee’s role in helping the industry’s image improve dramatically, but there is still more work to be done.
“Since the turn of the century, the reputation has really turned a corner. Some people still think that vinyl siding is oil-based and cheap, and they struggle to believe that vinyl siding is a green product, Karl said. “Now that builders are getting away from costlier exteriors that require long-term maintenance, there’s a golden opportunity to educate homebuilders and homeowners alike as they move towards vinyl siding. It’s more affordable, easier to install and a greener solution that their children and grandchildren will appreciate 70 years later.”
Karl believes that vinyl siding will be a bigger player in the coming decades across all ages. “Even the aging population would rather use their spend for their HVAC than replace their traditional exterior.”
And with the cost of materials and labor remaining high and the accessibility of materials still limited, Karl feels that certifying more installers and trainers will be essential for meeting the growing demand for vinyl siding in the coming years. “Georgia is growing, and Texas and Florida are growing more rapidly,” he noted.
When asked what’s next, Karl said he wants to “take a step back” and organize a planning meeting. The big focus, he said, will be:
- Certify more,
- Re-certify even more, and
- Build more industry partnerships – especially with trade schools
Geographically, Karl wants the WDMC to concentrate on areas where VSI:
- Already has success
- Has potential for success like Georgia, Texas and other states that have recently gone through legislative reform
He also plans to tap into Rob Balfanz’s workforce development expertise [Rob is now a VSI member]. “Rob’s gone to Progressive Foam, and workforce development is one of his pillars of focus.”
Karl and Rob remain good friends, and they have a lot in common. They’re both baseball dads (Karl has four boys who all play). They are both graduates of Purdue. And they are both passionate about discussing the vinyl siding industry and workforce development.
“I told Rob he gets to buy dinner moving forward!”
Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.