By Dave Ongie, News Editor
In its third year, the Battle of the Build competition staged by the Johnson City Area Home Builders Association is back and bigger than ever. The event, which will take place during the JCAHBA’s annual Home & Outdoor Show on Feb. 21-23, has picked up a title sponsor and will offer new awards to a field of high school teams that has nearly doubled in size.
This year 10 teams will square off in the Eastman Credit Union Battle of the Build 2020. Teams from Science Hill, David Crockett, Daniel Boone, Carter County, Chuckey-Doak, Johnson County, Sullivan Central, Sullivan East, Tennessee High and Unicoi County have secured sponsorship money and will square off in a building contest requiring creativity and craftsmanship as they vie for awards.
The first-place winner will take home $1,000, second place will net $750 and third place will earn $500. This year, there will also be a popular vote category that will be done by ballot and also by the number of “likes” each team is able to garner on Facebook. The winner of the popular vote will take home $250.
New this year is the Chairman’s Choice Award, which will be judged solely by the chairman of the board. The winner of this award will take home a trophy and bragging rights.
David Isaacs is once again heading up the Battle of the Build, and he has presided over a great deal of growth. Thanks to an agreement between the JCAHBA and the Home Builders Association of Greater Kingsport, the competition will take on a more regional flavor with 10 teams in the field. The event started three years ago with just six teams.
“We were able to secure permission to go into the Sullivan County and Hawkins County schools,” Isaacs said, adding that he expects the field could potentially grow to as many as 14 or 15 schools once the schools in Hawkins County have more time to get familiar with the program and its benefits.
One of the great benefits of the program is the fact that it offers schools an opportunity to raise money to send local students to the SkillsUSA competition that takes place in Chattanooga each year.
“That’s in Chattanooga, and it’s usually not long after our program,” Isaacs said. “One school said it costs $7,000 to get their kids to that program who had won the local SkillsUSA competition.”
With that in mind, organizers of the Battle of the Build are working to help each school raise money to send as many students as possible to the SkillsUSA event. This year more booth space has been provided to the teams for the sole purpose of allowing them a chance to fundraise over the course of the weekend.
To encourage participation, Isaacs said each school that participates in the new initiative will get scholarship money to help defray the cost of the trip to Chattanooga.
“If they do that and kind of talk to people about their projects and their program, we’re going to award them a scholarship for just showing up to do it,” Isaacs said. “We’re just going to take how many people participate, divide it by the total amount of money we raise and simply write a check to that school.”
But aside from the prize money and awards, Isaacs said the real purpose of the Battle of the Build is showing young people how rewarding it can be to work with their hands.
“That’s the whole thing about the program,” Isaacs said. “You take away the money and everything else, it’s just amazing to watch the kids and their passion for the projects they create. Nothing, for me, can buy that moment.”