Things aren’t nearly as busy now. “It used to be that we had a salesman and a buyer working for us, but now I do all that myself,” Marmolejo said. “I do a little bit of everything. I know a big company that buys carbon, and I call them and they tell me if they have any carbon and where I can find it.”
At the moment, Marmolejo said, he’s got enough carbon fiber to last another month or so. His only customer is a defense contractor Marmolejo refused to name. “They’re pretty secretive; they don’t even tell us what they use the carbon for,” he said. “Once this order is done, our company is probably going to go bankrupt. I’m going paycheck to paycheck.”
What the global market takes with one hand, though, it gives with another. Marmolejo’s factory shares a warehouse with HSH Interplan Inc., a company that sells specialty paint for airplanes. HSH may be the source of his next paycheck. The company has offered him a six-month contract to paint airplanes, with just one catch: he’ll be painting them in Colombia, which, after Iraq and Afghanistan, is probably the world’s most dangerous country.
“It’s my only option right now,” he said. “The pay is good, but you have to work 12 to 18 hours a day for a month at a time, and there are no days off.”
Marmolejo said he expects to make a decision in the next week or so. “I think I’ll take the job,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Colombia, but I’ll do my best to stay out of trouble.”