Today we meet Gary Feazell, a Virginia resident who owns and leads a Top 500 Class A construction company that serves the Roanoke, Lynchburg, Smith Mountain Lake, and New River Valley areas. 

When Feazell was 11 years old, his dad passed away. His older brother stepped up to be the guiding beacon for his life and employed him to work at a construction site each day after school.

During his teenage years working for his brother, the art of construction captured Feazell’s long-term attention. He went on to start his own business, F&S Building Innovations, in 1976—a business that has been growing and thriving since its foundations were laid.

Build Smart Institute 

In 2020, Feazell founded Build Smart Institute in the Roanoke Valley area of Virginia. He noticed a lack of qualified construction workers available for hire and decided to do something about it. Build Smart offers young people from junior high through adulthood the opportunity to learn the methods and techniques of construction. 

Students trained at Build Smart Institute begin their journey with a course called The Core Fundamentals of Construction. “[When students] come into our facility, part of their classroom time is in the class, then they go to the lab and learn the aspect of framing, plumbing, electrical, laying concrete, drywall finishing, painting—everything to do with construction,” Feazell explains. 

Build Smart’s training facility is one of epic practicality. It hosts 2,000 square feet of classrooms and 10,000 square feet of lab area where students can put their knowledge into practice.  Build Smart Institute also offers virtual classes that can easily be used as hybrid material in conjunction with classroom training, or simply as a stand-alone opportunity for personal education.

Filling in the Gaps 

Feazell has a heart for helping young people pursue a trade. He founded Build Smart to help fill in the gaps in the school system, which typically provides insufficient instruction about the viability of a career in the trades. 

“For years, it seems like, the trades and the hands-on stuff has been pushed to the background, and if you didn’t go to college and spend a ton of money doing that, you were less than. What we’re trying to do is take the gifts that are already in a person and elevate those gifts and give them the skills and knowledge so that they can go out into the workforce and be a productive part of the community,” Feazell says.

However, the Department of Education was not so excited about Build Smart’s goals. Feazell explains that the Department tends to develop unrealistic expectations of entities like Build Smart by requiring instructors to have an unattainable number of teaching certifications. 

To overcome this challenge, he has been working with legislators and the local school systems to bring about needed changes in certification requirements. He simply desires to come alongside the school systems to offer a depth of quality instruction that the schools cannot provide.

The Construction Trade 

Feazell focuses on supporting our society’s crucial need for tradesmen and their skills. One common misconception—which has led to a severe shortage of trade workers—is that people assume people in trades cannot earn as much money as college-educated workers can.

Build Smart, with all the unique opportunities that it provides to students, is seeing the opposite result. “If you have any desire, whatsoever, to work with your hands and become a part of this industry, we need you desperately,” Feazell says. With such high demand, trade workers have abundant work opportunities and the potential for a lucrative career. 

Build Smart Institute has become a focal point of trade-skill development in the Roanoke, VA area. As word spreads about the quality training, surrounding companies have begun recruiting Build Smart students and offering them apprenticeships with attractive starting pay. 

Through Build Smart’s efforts, students receive a “boost up” in trade industries. These hard-working trainees can pursue excellence and get a head start on their careers thanks to the hands-on learning environment and a plethora of great opportunities in trade work.

The Ripple Effect of Build Smart 

In the future, Build Smart Institute hopes to expand throughout the country. As a new institution that graduated their first class of 29 students in June of 2021, they have plenty of room for growth and expansion. With their founder’s vision and ability to turn desires into reality, Build Smart has inspiring potential to be a magnificent force for good in our society. 

Already, Feazell says, they are reaching out to “[partner] with a lot of the companies in the Roanoke Valley to give them additional help in their workforce development, such as project management, supervision—all the things that go along with a construction company.  Build Smart wants to be a part of helping developing companies.” 

Whether it is a construction project, a company, an educational institution, or a student, Feazell is always building something or someone up. His efforts have sent ripples of positive change into his community.

If you are interested in contacting the Build Smart Institute, or if you want additional information about their courses, events, or programs, you can visit their website here.

Click here to watch the entire interview between Gary Feazell and NWEF president Melvin Adams, or select one of the short clips below to jump to a specific topic:

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Note from the Editor: We thank all our contributors for their insights and expertise. However, the views of guest authors or interviewees are not necessarily those of Noah Webster Educational Foundation.

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