Hovnanian Enterprises announced its expansion into the Minneapolis-St. Paul market in mid-March. The move northward into Minnesota is a first for the Red Bank, N.J.-based builder.

But Hovnanian won't be alone.

Toll Brothers is also moving into the Twin Cities, having recently snapped up a 90-acre and 50-acre parcel of land in the southern suburbs. The Huntingdon Valley, Pa., builder plans to construct a mix of townhouses and detached homes. Hovnanian and Toll join Centex, D.R. Horton, Lennar, Pulte, Ryland, and other leading builders breaking ground in Minneapolis-St. Paul (see chart at right for a list of local leaders).

Entering a new market by launching a new division is a bit of a departure for Hovnanian, which has grown most recently by acquisition.

Last year Hovnanian bought Windward Homes in Tampa, Fla.; it entered the Phoenix market by acquiring Great Western Homes; and it purchased Summit Homes to enter Ohio, shortly after expanding its presence in Houston by buying Brighton Homes.

But Hovnanian did make an acquisition of sorts: a division president. To head its newly formed Minneapolis-St. Paul division, Hovnanian plucked Tom Standke from Pulte Homes, where Standke was serving as division present in the Twin Cities. Standke has more than 24 years of experience in the home building industry.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, 20,327 new housing permits were issued in 2003 at a variety of price points for both attached and detached housing. It ranks No. 11 in single-family permit issuance, according to the U.S. Census Department.