First Home Builders of Florida notified about 200 employees late Friday afternoon that they will be laid off as of Dec. 28.

The staff reductions, which were across all job categories, were due to the ongoing slump in the residential home building market in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral, Fla. area.

"This is a painful action, but a necessary one to right-size the company," said Tim Graney, vice president of finance, in a prepared press release.

"We are now positioned to operate more efficiently at a lower volume than we have enjoyed in the past few years," said Graney. The company will continue its strategy of targeting first-time home buyers.

The news was a dramatic turnaround for First Home, which was acquired by Hovnanian Enterprises in August 2005 when the market was riding high.

First Home Builders delivered 1,819 houses with revenues of $308 million in 2004. At the time of the sale in 2005, First Home Builders had about 4,350 homes in contract backlog with a sales value of $925 million.

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