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Bun, muffin producer to expand in Norwalk

NORWALK, Ohio - In the baking business, making bread isn't always about finding a new market to sell your products. Sometimes it's just about filling in the nooks and crannies of what's already there.

New Horizons Acquisition Co. plans to break ground next month on a 20,000-square-foot expansion of its facilities in Norwalk that promises to add more than two dozen jobs to one of the state's hardest-hit economies. The company's facility is 56,000 square feet and produces more than 45,600 buns an hour.

The company maintains a low public profile even as it continues to crank out millions of buns and English muffins for its largest customer, McDonald's Restaurants, and others as New Horizons Baking Co. The expansion is under a sister company, Genesis Baking Co., which sells similar products to other food service, wholesale, and retail outlets both regionally and nationally.

The $3.5 million expansion, to be finished by the end of 2010, would expand production of English muffins for wholesale and private label customers, said Tilmon "Tim" Brown, the company's chairman and chief executive officer.

"It's an interesting time in the baking business," Mr. Brown said from his office yesterday. "We're not broad-based bakers, we're niche bakers, and there are customers out there who need the products that we make."

The baking operation employs about 160 people in Norwalk, and operates a sister plant in Fremont, Ind., with another 100 employees.

Last month, the Ohio Development Financing Advisory Council awarded a $2 million direct loan and more than $6.3 million from the Ohio Enterprise Bond Fund to build and install the second production line for English muffins.

Mr. Brown said the decision to expand the 43-year-old company's Norwalk operations was based on a demand from customers.

He said that while state assistance is based on the additional 25 jobs over the next three years, he anticipates the hiring could be finished by the end of 2010.

Manufacturing in Huron County has taken several hits in recent years, including the loss of scores of jobs after the 2008 collapse of Norwalk Furniture Corp. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services estimates that unemployment in the county was at 16.8 percent in March, with nearly 5,000 people actively seeking jobs.

- Larry P. Vellequette

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