WATER cooler maker Ebac has taken on 60 staff over the past year and is still recruiting as it plans to tap into new markets across the world.

The Bishop Auckland-based company, which now employs 350 staff in a job-starved part of County Durham, has plans to expand its water cooler market into growth areas such as Eastern Europe and even India.

It is the market leader for water coolers in western Europe, but is pushing harder to get into new sales channels for its dehumidifier products, which are sold directly to the consumer.

The company exports about 70 per cent of its products.

A spokesman said: "We need to work the foreign export markets a bit harder, and are trying to get into channels in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

"At the moment, there are plans for another business opportunity that we are planning to launch soon, but nothing is finalised at the moment."

Ebac is recruiting another eight staff in sales, production, IT and accounts to meet its expansion plans.

The company was set up in 1972 by John Elliott MBE and over the past 30 years has grown into a multi-million pound company with a turnover of more than £30m.

It is estimated that more than half of the UK's office watercoolers are manufactured by Ebac.

Margaret Elliott, group personnel director, said: "While other manufacturers across the region, and indeed the UK, are struggling to grow, Ebac is going from strength the strength. These newly-created roles represent how our sound and innovative business practices are bearing fruit for this company, but also for the local economy."

Ebac does everything in-house - from multi-lingual sales teams to all the manufacturing of plastic moulds and electronic components for the products.

The company can turn out more than 250,000 dehumidifiers and watercoolers in a typical year at its factories.

Ebac Industrial Products, one of the subsidiary companies, has contracts to supply air conditional systems to military and rail groups.