For Steve Davis, KB Home's former regional general manager for the Southeast, getting a promotion meant a bittersweet homecoming. In his new position as Gulf Coast region president, the New Orleans native will lead a joint venture with the Shaw Group to begin building homes in hurricane-devastated Louisiana.

Davis expects to have a division office open by 2006. “We've had a team on the ground for about five weeks. We've been looking for land, talking to parish leaders and community leaders to get a feel of how can we help and how to get things started as soon as possible,” he says.

Already his team has secured 3,000 acres in the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, an industrial area south of the Mississippi River across from downtown New Orleans. The company also signed a letter of intent to purchase 73 finished lots in the city. KB intends to close on its first home in mid-2006, with operations ramping up for a big impact in 2007, Davis says.

And although the magnitude of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina has made the lack of housing an immediate and pressing need, Davis says that the Gulf Coast market represents a long-term business strategy for KB Home. “This is another extension of our outgrowth in the Southeast. Katrina expedited it a bit, but we're still looking for markets to grow,” he notes.

But the question remains of whether other builders will follow. Rumors have circulated that D.R. Horton may be looking to jump in, but no official announcements have been made. “I sense we could be the catalyst [for more builder investment in the market],” Davis says. “I expect there to be more activity here as we move forward.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: New Orleans, LA.