CHICAGO — With an eye on Ohio’s growing municipal finance market, George K. Baum & Co. has hired public finance banker Megan J. Browning to open the firm’s first office in the state.

Browning joins Baum from RBC Capital Markets’ Columbus office. Before that she was at Seasongood & Mayer, which RBC acquired last June.

For several years George K. Baum has been the senior book-running manager for the Ohio Housing Finance Authority, and ranked fifth in the state among underwriters in negotiated transactions.

With the hire, the firm hopes to gain a greater foothold in Ohio’s fast-growing tax-exempt bond market, which ranks seventh for bond issue volume among the states. The state saw $15.7 billion in bond sales completed in 2007 — a nearly 23% increase from 2006, according to Thomson Financial.

In her new role, Browning will expand the firm’s traditional housing finance business to include transactions with municipalities, school districts, colleges, universities, and the state.

“We realized that there was a lot of business being done in the state, and have for several years tried to find the right person that fits our locally driven, client-focused version of public finance,” said Robert K. Dalton, Baum’s vice chairman. “When we met Megan Browning we concluded she was very similar to our other bankers across the country.”

Baum plans to eventually hire additional bankers to staff the Columbus office. “We don’t have a specific goal, but we think this will create some interest and create some inquiries from other bankers in the state,” Dalton said.

With the Columbus office, the firm will have offices in 18 U.S. cities. Within the last two years Baum opened new offices in New Orleans and Los Angeles, and is keeping an eye on further growth, according to Dalton.

“We’ll be opportunistic and consider growth in a measured way,” he said.

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