Though activity in the housing market has slowed throughout the country, Columbia County continues to attract the interest of builders, both inside and outside the area.
"Things are changing daily," said Richard Harmon, director of the county's Development Services. "I think we will see new faces in Columbia County building commercial or residential ... because people are searching for those different markets and targets of development that's going on and where there is growth."
Harmon said that Crown Communities Inc. is the most recent of metro Atlanta-based builders to begin work in the area.
In recent weeks, Crown Communities started purchasing building permits within the county, said Harmon, adding that those in the company have told him they could finish construction on a house in 45 days.
Currently, the company is constructing homes in the Iris Glen and Berkley Hills subdivisions, as listed on its Web site.
Builders from the Atlanta area have built within the county in the past, Harmon said, but not with as much gusto as Crown Communities.
"I guess these folks with money and builders go wherever there's activity, and that makes sense," he said. "It's a market-driven thing."
A Crown Communities employee said that because company President Frank Downey doesn't live in the Atlanta area he doesn't consider himself an Atlanta builder. But the company's corporate offices are based in Conyers, Ga., according to its Web site.
Phone messages left last week for Downey were not immediately returned.
Builders frequently come into and out of the Columbia County market, which raises the competitive bar in the area, said Stephen Beazley, the president of Evans-based Bill Beazley Homes Inc.
"Competition makes everybody better," he said. "There's not a whole lot we can do about it, except see what they're doing and adjust what we're doing to compete with them."
Mark Herbert, owner of Herbert Homes Inc., said builders in the South Augusta area likely have been more affected than those in Columbia County.
"It really probably is pretty flattering to know that they (builders from outside the area) see our marketplace, when they're on the outside looking in, that we really got something good around here," he said. "That ought to make the people in our area feel good that we are in such a good position."
Harmon said his office frequently receives calls from people inquiring about the county.
"When you start seeing Columbia County get these high ratings, as far as the best place to live and that's in national publications, you're going to see more and more people want to move here," Harmon said.
Herbert emphasized that while out-of-town builders can pick up and leave once market conditions improve in their own areas, construction companies within the community will remain.
"Local builders are here to stay," Herbert said. "They live here, work here, go to church here, kids go to school here, and our work force lives here."
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