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Triangle partners create their own job 'catalyst'

Posted December 15, 2008

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— Two local unemployed men not only found jobs, they created a company that now employs hundreds.

Morrisville-based Catalyst Manufacturing Services makes electronics, including parts for NASA.

Jeff Benes, Catalyst Manufacturing president and general manager, and his business partner each faced hard times when when the company they worked for was bought out and shut down in 2002.

“My last job at that company was to take down my own cubicle, which was really adding insult to injury,” Benes said.

Benes said that at the time, it was easier to start a new company than find a new job. He found resources at Wake Technical Community College to help with a business plan. The college also found state money for job training.

Wake offers many resources for free or at a low cost. The college also helps coordinate services with the Small Business Administration.

Six years later, Catalyst Manufacturing has locations in New York and Mexico and employs more than 400 people.

“There is hope. You just don’t give up,” Benes said. “Everyone at the company was in some sort of unemployed situation when we hired them.”

Zoaya El Bey had been laid off from her job when Catalyst hired her.

“It was really exciting to know that they just didn’t let that stop them and they said, ‘Hey, we are going to start our own company,’” El Bey said.

Wake Tech's director of entrepreneurship, Fred Gebarowski, said that with the bad economy, he's seeing more interest in people trying to do the same thing.

“Instead of going west and discovering new territory, people are discovering that uninvented new product,” Gebarowski said.

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