Prominent roofer selected as an Ozark's Ambassador

Mon Apr 8, 2019 at 02:02 PM

Roger HarnessBeing in a foxhole is not comfortable.  Being in a foxhole for 70 nights requires mental fortitude, creative survival skills and pure iron-man grit to survive.  Roger Harness is the son of a WWI veteran who survived 70 nights in a foxhole and who inherited a steely determination to overcome obstacles.  You can tell that he means what he says and he’ll get the job done right no matter what it takes. It’s this work ethic that drives him to succeed and one of the many reasons he is the 2019 North Arkansas College Ozark Ambassador. 

In recognition of his outstanding success, Roger will receive the award at the annual Evening on the Plaza dinner on May 2 in the L.E. “Gene” Durand Center.  The reception will begin at 6:00 pm with dinner to follow at 6:30 pm.  Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased by calling the Institutional Advancement office at (870) 391-3159.  Cathy Brandt will receive the Pioneer Impact Award and Dr. Ginger Fenter will be named Distinguished Alumnus. 

Harness says he gives back because the community has given so much to him. “Even though we have some locations outside the area and the income comes in from those metropolitan areas, I buy everything I can from the business owners here in Harrison.” The company has around 100 vehicles purchased locally.  His support extends to the College where he established the Roger and Patty Harness Endowed Chair, gives to the agriculture scholarship and has served on the Foundation Board.   

Harness is humble.  “I’m about as dumb as a rock in a lot of ways.  I cannot spell.  My second grade granddaughter can out-spell me!” he says.   Another granddaughter, Mazzy is a student at Northark.  “The college is a great place for kids to stay close to home and get their first two years behind them before they head off to the university for a couple of reasons; the kids get grounded and more mature while they figure out what they really want to do, and going to college here helps the parents because Northark is so affordable.”

Roger’s parents, Earl and Emily Harness had a sprawling 5,500 parcel of land near Bear Creek in Searcy County named Bear Mountain.  They moved to Harrison in 1946 and bought the farm Roger now lives on for $11,300.  The house was built in 1938, the barn in 1943.  Roger has lived on the farm for all but four years of his life.

“My dad worked as a dairy farmer while raising five boys and one girl.”  Roger says of those early years, “We were very frugal.  The bills were always paid and there was food on the table.  But we worked hard and that’s where I learned my work ethic.”

As we talked about the Ozark Ambassador Award outside on the porch, a variety of people and machines swirled around making improvements to the farm.  The sunshine that day begged for spring to finally appear and I could tell that Roger doesn’t sit still for long.  “I don’t sit around on the couch,” he said.  “If it’s not terrible weather that forces me to be inside, I’m out digging thistles, picking up rocks or chasing cows!”

An important milestone occurred when he was 20.  Roger had worked at Famous Shoe Center owned by his uncle for quite some time.  The store wasn’t growing. “My brother had started Harness Roofing in 1986.  He had three employees and 30K of inventory.  He handed over the company and the jobs that we lined up.”

In order to grow, the company had to expand.  “We had roofed almost everything on the square.  With 15-20 employees, our choices were to lay people off, diversify or look outside the area.  A job for Arkansas State Troopers headquarters came up in Little Rock.  Our bid was $200K less than the next lowest bid, and that worried me a little, but I knew it would be a profitable job.”  The headquarters construction garnered good media coverage, with Harness Roofing being dubbed “a subcontractor that is a diamond in the rough.”  That started the ball rolling, “In 1998, we began bidding in Springdale.  The jobs kept coming, so we put in a location there.  The next year, we bid in Ft. Smith and then put a location there.  In 2000, we established the Little Rock location.  Harness Roofing currently has six locations in three different states and has 274 employees.

Harness learned the value of customer service dealing with the public at the shoe store.  “My pet peeve is not receiving good customer service,” he revealed.  “We demand our company provides good customer service skills and values safety. If those two aren’t a high priority, then a person doesn’t fit our culture.”

True to the family heritage, he touts the prime reasons raising cattle is such an economic boon for people in Boone and the surrounding areas.  “Agriculture is extremely important to our area.  It’s great cow-calf country!  The 46 average inches of rainfall we get here allows you to run a mamma cow and calf on three acres, easy.  Out west where I quail hunt, it takes 40-60 acres of land for that same cow and calf.  The rainfall and fescue grass sets our area apart and adds money to landowners.  Even if you have a job town, if you have land, having a few cows can give you that little extra something.  It can even allow you to go hunting! Or, shopping for the girls,” he quickly added.

As he talked about what had led him to this point in his life, he said, “I owe everything to the people that work with me.  I read a book named The E-Myth Revisited and I got one thing out of it.  It said, “If you want to grow your business, work ON it and not IN it.”  Roger took action, “I moved into a corporate office by the fairgrounds and that enabled me to figure out how to work on the company.”

Quail hunting is Roger’s passion.  “The environment for quail hunting has changed. The fescue and bermudagrass have eliminated the quail population. I’m trying to develop the quail habitat on Bear Mountain,” he added.  “In part, to ease my conscience.” 

Roger officially retired last year, passing duties over to his son Justin.  When asked what other hobbies he enjoyed, he quickly retorted, “hunting, hunting, and hunting!”  His wife, Patty is not a hunter, she likes to travel.  Roger accompanies her on trips, with a caveat, “I do tell her we have to travel at certain times, outside hunting season!”

Roger and Patty have been married 46 years on April 20.  They have two daughters and a son. Justin and his wife, Lauren, have 4 kids.  Daughter Beth Ann Crenshaw and husband, Mark, have five kids.  Daughter Christine Hartman and husband, Pete have 3 daughters.

North Arkansas College is committed to providing an educational and work environment for its students, faculty, and staff that is free from sexual discrimination including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence. No form of sexual discrimination will be tolerated. See the full North Arkansas College Title IX Policy and Procedures for the specific definitions of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including examples of such conduct.