After more than 20 years of building in the Columbus, Ohio market, Centex Homes is packing up and moving out.

Citing tough market conditions, Centex confirmed that it "is not investing any future capital in Columbus," according to Eric Bruner, a spokesperson for Centex. "We have evaluated the changing conditions in the home building industry and concluded that we have greater opportunities to execute our future growth strategy by redeploying resources to other operations."

A sagging economic environment and the lack of growth in key demographics have depressed the Ohio market for the past three years, only to be compounded by the current national slowdown. Other public home builders active in Columbus include locally-based M/I Homes and Dominion Homes. Both report that sales have dropped by more than a third in the last year.

Centex is currently active in 10 subdivisions and has closed on 251 homes in the Columbus area in the most recent fiscal year, which ended March 31. The company plans to build out remaining neighborhoods, which target the move-up buyer. Another possibility is to sell off lots to other home builders.

Bruner declined to answer questions related to current land positions. "Some of these properties potentially could be the subject of negotiations in the transition period."

Beginning in September, Centex will begin to cut Columbus-based staff, although Bruner said expects the company will maintain a presense in the market for some time to come. "It takes time to organize an orderly transition plan that allows us to fulfill our service commitments to our customers," says Bruner. No specific date for a complete extraction has been set.