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Robert Trigaux

If Tampa Bay's shedding construction jobs, why does incoming homebuilder call us hot regional market?



stevehiltonmeritagehomesceo.Wake up and good morning. Check out this quote and marvel... "The Tampa area is one of the most attractive homebuilding markets in the southeastern United States, with the second-largest economy in Florida and strong job growth expected."

That's either a not-so-funny joke or a quote from 2004, right? I mean, after all, the St. Petersburg Times just lead its front page Tuesday with the headline Tampa Bay area sheds second highest number of construction jobs in the country on this story.

Wrong! That remark was issued Dec. 2 by Meritage Homes CEO Steve Hilton (photo, left), in this press release announcing the homebuilder's plans to enter the Tampa Bay housing market. Here's more coverage on the plans by Meritage, the nation's 10th largest builder, from the Tampa Bay Business Journal and Wall Street Journal.

Hilton, this Meritage press release, elaborates on his decision to enter the Tampa Bay market: "It offers us another opportunity to redeploy our resources into an area where we can grow and leverage the expertise of our current managers in the southeast."

Is this possibly an early sign of the turning of the regional housing tide? Consider Meritage's even more recent decision to flee the still staggering Las Vegas market in this Las Vegas Review-Journal story, dated today.

So is Tampa Bay about to rebound, as Meritage suggests? Or is it stuck in limbo, as Jeff Thorson, division president of William Ryan Homes in Tampa, told the St. Pete Times Monday? Shy of any major corporate relocations to the area, Thorson said, "I don't see any dramatic turnaround."Stay tuned.

-- Robert Trigaux, business columnist, St. Petersburg Times, soon to be the Tampa Bay Times

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 9:08am]


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