Community Involvement

For Love of His City

To hear Bob Fetzer speak about Roanoke, Va., in such fond and uplifting terms, a logical assumption would be that he’s the mayor. But he’s not, which makes his devotion to improving and contributing to the city more impressive.

When Fetzer, president of Building Specialists, moved to Roanoke roughly 30 years ago, he joined various leadership groups which opened his eyes to the needs of the community. In addition to addressing issues such as poverty and homelessness, Fetzer believes improving a city’s physical beauty can benefit a community as well. For example, decades ago he secured a loan to rehabilitate a dilapidated building nobody wanted, which is now a treasured highlight of the downtown area.

Building Specialists’ commitment to community has evolved in many directions. Staff members regularly educate Roanoke’s professional community, including teaching real estate appraisers a course on the true value of remodeling work. “We educated them on how costs have gone up, and how customized work costs a lot more money,” Fetzer says.

“Our goal is to make them more aware so they can provide more accurate appraisals so owners get the benefits of the increased value of their property. Their education is beneficial to the banking community as well, and we’re helping home buyers get the value of their work so they can finance their projects,” Fetzer says.

Building Specialists’ largest recent act of charity was its 2006 participation in the television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” which provides a renovated or new home to needy families. The overwhelming challenge was building a new home (pictured on the right) in 107 hours, with thousands of volunteers.

Despite competing with hunting season, record bad weather and a monumental coordination effort, everything came together in the final hours. “This was a testimonial to the spirit of the community. Our firm is small and we could not have done this ourselves. If it were not for the community connections we’ve built through community activities, we would not have had the confidence to do it,” Fetzer says.

The home builder has not benefited financially from any of its charitable efforts, but has established a trust factor with other businesses and community leaders, Fetzer says. “I think the other rewarding aspect has been in terms of influencing community policy, and good building design.”

Roanoke, Va.

Homes designed/built annually: 44
Residential work: 75 percent
New construction: 13 percent
Average annual revenue: $5.75 million

Kohler Co. • Weather Shield Windows and Doors • Sub-Zero Inc. • Wolf Appliance • James Hardie • Delta Lighting • Armstrong Ceilings • Interface/Flor

Doing More Than Just Building

The team at Horizon Builders in Crofton, Md., strives to do more than build nine to 15 custom homes a year. Horizon employees take great pride and enjoyment from being involved in the community, as the builder contributes to, at times, a dozen community programs. “Everyone has limited resources but we try to do our best to give as generously as we can to a lot of different causes,” says Joseph Bohm, president and CEO.

Maryland Therapeutic Riding is one program dear to Horizon employees as Bohm’s daughter is a participant. “It’s an organization that uses horses for therapy for physically and mentally disabled [people]. They have a charity concert every year. We help them out physically with setup and give them materials and generators for the outside event. We also contribute financially,” Bohm says. Both Bohm and his partner George Fritz, COO, also give personally.

Horizon Builders is also involved in sending care packages to U.S. soldiers overseas. It participates in a group called Support Your Troops, which identifies soldiers’ needs and arranges for packages to be sent to different units. “Neither George nor I were in the military, but both our fathers were combat veterans so we feel very strongly that we need to support our men and women serving our country,” Bohm adds.

The third major program Horizon Builders is involved in takes place a few weeks before Christmas. “We go to one of the big-box stores with our staff and a 20-ft. trailer. We load up the carts with food staples, clothes and hygiene products. The truck is loaded front to back, top to bottom and we drive it over to St. Gregory’s Church which has a food bank,” Bohm says (see picture at left). “We’ve been giving to St. Gregory’s Church for more than 10 years. We enjoy doing it.”

Bohm stresses the reason for involvement in the community is not for marketing or networking benefits. “You don’t walk into a charity and say, ‘[W]hat can I get out of this?’ It’s more like ‘[W]hat can I give to this.’ There’s a big difference,” he says.
“The company knows that we aren’t just hard-nosed business guys but are also involved — we are more than just a company,” Bohm says. “We are a group of people with a common goal and part of that is helping people. I’d rather help someone out than step over someone.”

Crofton, Md.

Homes designed/built annually: 9 to 15
Residential work: 100 percent
New construction: 50 percent
Average annual revenue: $35 million

Waterworks Inc. • W.R. Grace • Tradewood Windows and Doors • Schluter-Systems • Baldwin Hardware • Henry Co. • Lutron Electronics • Icynene Inc. • Wolfe • Tischler Und Sohn