Sioux Falls Roofer Refuses to Retire

Technology Helps 80 Year Old Elmer Biteler Thrive

The roofing industry is very competitive .The top dog in this part of the state may be a senior dynamo by the name of Elmer Biteler. He might not know who Mark Zuckerburg or Elon Musk are, but Elmer has nailed down a top spot in the roofing business thanks to science and technology.

When the crew at E & B Roofing looks down and sees a cowboy hat, they know the boss is on the job site. With his cowboy boots and bolo tie Elmer Biteler looks more like the kind of guy who would be looking down from a horse not a ladder. Elmer has become one of the top roofers in the region.

“I’d say I got some real good roofers up there they don’t hide anything if it needs to be fixed they fix it!”

I asked Elmer if that is because he tells them that is the way it needs to done.

“Oh yeah, they know too that I want it done right or we don’t do it at all.”

Most guys Elmer’s age are retired, so the obvious question is why does he keep working?

“I think I’d pass away if I retired. I don’t have anything else to do. I don’t golf, I can’t shoot a gun, I’m blind so I enjoy this,” said Elmer.

Elmer isn’t really blind, but macular degeneration is starting to affect his ability to drive. So at age 80, yep I said 80, Elmer thought his construction days were over. However, a recommendation from a friend brought him to an office in downtown Sioux Falls. And it landed him in a new partnership

“He kind like dropped the curtain,” said Jonna Di Rito. “And he said whatever we need to do lets do it.”

Di Rito & Stacy Johnson own a company called “manage my back office dot com.” They say working with Elmer has challenged them, in a good way.

“People think we’re roofers, we’re not,” said Di Rito. “We understand marketing, advertising, demographics, geo-location services, and activity based costing.”

They also use the latest technology, which employs Satellite and aerial imagery to measure roofs, and figure estimates. The accuracy and ease of use have changed the roofing industry.

“We take this and just import it in and it gives us the roof measurements, it gives us the labor, it gives us everything,” said Di Rito.

So for Elmer that meant, no more tape measures and no more ladders. Nobody understands satellites better than the folks at EROS, the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center. They’ve been mapping the planet for 40 years. Even Google Maps sends people here to download data on a regular basis. The Landsat mission at EROS doesn’t to look at roofs from space, they take a much wider view, but the agency’s director Frank Kelly understands the uses and demand for higher resolution imagery. Years ago while working in Alaska the native population kept asking for more information about where the ice flow was. Frank soon learned they were using this information to hunt walruses vital to their survival.

“So that kind of broke down any assumptions I may have had about people using this type of information,” said Kelly. So when someone like Elmer Biteler comes in and uses that technology, its simple to see that he can get a lot more contracts on any given day because it takes less time. It’s a smart use.

And on the list of “smart” things Elmer has done, marrying Gratia probably tops the list.

“I’m kind of his helper,” she says. “Sometimes I drive him around or do whatever I can to help him but it is his thing he’s the one who does it.”

Gratia is thankful science and technology have allowed Elmer to keep doing something he loves.

“He would be driving me nuts otherwise!” She laughs. “He’s one in a million I’ll tell you that and I thank my lucky stars every day for him.”

A man 80 years young, who is just now, reaching the peak of his career, thanks to science, satellites and software.

“I’m going to keep right on roofing,” said Elmer.

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