Shea Homes, the nation's No. 1 private home builder, is said to be close to announcing its foray into Florida. Industry sources familiar with Shea's plans cite both serious acquisition initiatives and land purchase negotiations in the Sunshine State, whose job creation momentum, demographic population gains, and land availability suggest it's a lynchpin for every home building empire.

Word is that Shea is deep in negotiations to acquire Minto, a south Florida builder of master-planned, podium, and high-rise communities. Industry observers also report that Shea has approached Florida land developers Metro Development Group about purchasing acreage.

Its anticipated unveiling of Florida operations will address a conspicuous missing link in its growth outlook, particularly as it expands its Trilogy Active Adult division beyond the community brand's current California, Washington, and Arizona footprint. Shea officials have been mum about specifics, but the company's Web site highlights Florida as a “coming soon” location for Trilogy operations.

“You've got to figure that to grow, Shea's going to have to make a move like this eventually,” says an industry analyst who asked not to be identified. “If it were just any company, picking up operations and migrating them across country might be of concern, but Shea's an especially strong operator, and their disciplines should enable them to thrive in Florida as they have everywhere else.”

Shea, which according to BIG BUILDER sister magazine Builder, closed on 6,901 home sales in 2005, worth $3.2 billion in revenue. The company has concentrated operations in five states and might regard itself as overexposed in markets undergoing degrees of correction. Active Adult accounted for some 27 percent of the company's unit activity in 2005.