(Sept. 8) SANTA MARIA, Calif. — With an eye on building stronger relationships with customers, Bonipak Produce Inc. has created a new department, promoted a manager and hired a new person.

Bonipak’s new national accounts and business development department will be aimed at building more direct lines of communication, said Mitch Ardantz, vice president of sales and marketing.

“We are focusing on getting more exposure of our people to our customers,” Ardantz said. “We want to get one-on-one face time and use that time to gather information and bring it back so we can better understand and better provide for the wants and needs of our customers.”

Rick Horn has been promoted to director of national accounts and business development. Horn, who had been sales manager for the past six years and who has been with Bonipak for about 16, took over the new department the first of September.

Shannon Porter joined Bonipak and the new department Sept. 1. She will assist Horn in building relationships, and in the beginning she’ll do more traveling than Horn.

Porter is based in the Midwest. She comes to Bonipak from the high-tech industry and has several years of sales experience, Ardantz said.

Horn and Porter will work with retailers and foodservice customers.

A successor for Horn at sales manager has not yet been named, and he and Ardantz will co-manage the sales office until one is found.