About Pana Roofing
In 1996, PANA Roofing comprised largely of owner and president German Batista, his half brother Jose Prado and a couple of hammers.
Those humble beginnings are distant memories now, as Batista has overseen the evolution of his business from a tiny operation to a major force in the Lowcountry construction market. What started out with three employees turned into 15. What started as two builders turned into 15.
It’s been a long and prosperous road for the Purple Heart-winning entrepreneur, who decided to move to Hilton Head after spring breaking it here for years.
“Our philosophy-and this is as simple as I can put this – is do good work, and be on time. That’s it,” says Batista.
A soft-spoken man with a dry wit, Batista’s story starts in the town of David, in the chiriqui area of Panama, where he was born and raised. At 23, he headed north to America and the big city – namely Miami – where he obtained his pilot’s license. He would soon take that knowledge to the Army, where he began serving as a helicopter mechanic and crew chief.
Batista’s first duty was in Germany. “It was a great experience – the culture, the language. Everything.”
Shortly after that, Batista was transferred to Iraq and the Gulf War, where his aviation and mechanic experience proved immediately valuable. “On the first day of the ground war, my company captured about 500 POWs. On Day Two, we captured another 700. Our job was to fly them back and forth to the base, but we were flying Blackhawks, which could only carry 11 POWs,” he said.
“I was flying with them, with my 9mm pistol, acting like a soldier,” he smiled.
Btaista walks over to a cabinet and brings back a packed shoebox. Inside is the book “She went to War” by Rhonda Corman, a New York Times “Notable Book of 1992” that discusses the Gulf War and features pictures of Batista. The box also holds several small, shiny cases, from which he produces an armed services Air Medal, another medal with the engraving “Liberation of Kuwait,” and a Purple Heart – all kept in perfect condition alongside a collection of photographs and letters.
The Air Medal commemorates flying in combat, the Kuwaiti medal was given by the people after their country’s liberation, and the Purple Heart is for an injury Batista suffered in the Gulf – stepping on a land mine only weeks after being in Saudi Arabia and hours before President Bush ended the ground war.
The blast, although left no permanent damage, did a number on Batista’s legs, toes and fingers, and he was eventually returned to a hospital in Germany – the same base where, in 1999m Jesse Jackson announced the release of three American POWs from Yugoslavia.
I was watching Jesse on TV, and saying, “I’ve been there, I remember that room,” he said with a smile.
The injury didn’t keep him down for long, though, I flew back to Savannah to go to spring break, and I was walking with crutches going to all the Hilton Head clubs,” he laughed.
But still he needed a job. “My brother had been on the island working as a roofer for three months,” Batista said,. “So when I moved to Hilton Head, he said “Let’s open our own roofing company.”
So the fledging enterprise went about business the only way it knew how – with hammer and nail. “For a year I made no money, but I had so much invested I couldn’t stop.”
The beginning of PANA Roofing, then, was comprised of 12 and 18 hour days and a lot of physical labor. Their first job was decidedly low-key; enough so that Batista showed up determined to finish the job with hand tools. “The builder went to the store for us and got a few nail guns and a compressor,” he said. “I said, “Pay me whenever you can,” and went to work.”
That sense of work – hard work – is the dominant theme in Batista’s business philosophy.
Call Pana Roofing today for your free estimate @ 843-682-2440!
Complete Article published in Hilton Head Monthly. Written by Jeff Vrabel (Sept. 1999). Portions have been updated.