The Baxter Group's creativity salvages valuable design jobs

For graphic designer John Ryan, keeping together the creative team he's been a part of for six years is terrific.

Mr. Ryan, a former graphic artist at MNA Creative in Danbury, is one of eight employees from that design firm hired on in October by New Milford businessman Brooke Baxter, owner of The Baxter Group.

"It was nice to be able to keep the team together," said Mr. Ryan, who has 20 years' experience in the field. "The work is strenuous, often with long hours."

"It's a creative field so things are subjective," he noted. "It's important to work with people whose judgment you trust and respect."

Knowing MNA Creative was in financial difficulty and on the brink of closing its doors, Mr. Baxter stepped in to salvage valuable creative personnel.

His manufacturing and supply management services company -- The Baxter Group -- had been working in tandem with the design firm since 2007.

Mr. Baxter grew up in and resides now in Sherman with his wife, Claudia, and daughters Sabrina and Monica.

Claudia Baxter plays an active role at the Baxter Group and the firm also benefits from the respective business and creative talents of Mr. Baxter's brother, Mark Baxter, and his brother-in-law, Bruce Alexander.

On hearing in early autumn of MNA Creative's distress, Mr. Baxter took action to hire the design firm's entire team when MNA let them go, he said.

MNA Creative president Paul Stratton confirmed Tuesday the company he partnered with David Macey had gone out of business, a victim of the economic downturn.

"I knew all the employees from the projects we'd worked together on," Mr. Baxter said Monday. "I was able to meet with them and find out if they were interested in staying together as a unit."

For the MNA Creative team, the move was seamless. There was no loss of salary or benefits in the transition and not one day of work was missed.

For Mr. Baxter, the addition of the former MNA employees further bolsters his business portfolio in New Milford.

On Oct. 15, he registered a new company, MNA-BAX LLC, with the Connecticut Secretary of the State.

The new entity incorporated the creative design and branding expertise of his new team with the engineering and manufacturing expertise of The Baxter Group.

MNA-BAX LLC is engaged in new product introduction for companies including Titleist Golf, Estee Lauder and Movado watches.

"The dynamic over here is fantastic," said Mr. Baxter about his business headquarters at 337 Kent Road, in the former Voltaire's gift store building.

MNA Creative, founded in 1979 as Macey Noyes Associates, created brands, retail displays and promotion starts for companies including Pepsico, Rubbermaid and Calvin Klein.

Previously located at 93 Lake Avenue in Danbury, MNA still has an active business registry with the Secretary of the State.

At this time, civil suits for contract collections are on file against MNA Creative at the Danbury and the Stamford superior courts.