Syrian refugee Alan Omar-Abbas once dreamed of playing pro soccer in the United States. Today, his fluency in three languages has helped him find work in Indianapolis.
When ISIS terrorists attacked his home town of Aleppo in 2013, Omar-Abbas and his family fled across the border to Turkey. He worked in a factory in Istanbul and played on a company soccer team.
After receiving United Nations refugee status, he was given asylum in the United States, arriving in Indy in 2016.
The Exodus Refugee organization helped him find housing, and the staffing company, Morales Group, offered work as a translator. His language skills have moved him up the ladder as a team leader. He speaks Arabic, Kurdish and English and is learning Spanish.
He’d still like to play soccer, but he’s also getting his GED through night classes.
His story shows how the Morales Group has emerged as a player in the state economy, connecting immigrants with transitional jobs. Bigger staffing companies often don’t have the word-of-mouth connections that work well with immigrants.
Tom Morales started the Morales Group in memory of his father, whose family came to Indy from Mexico in the early 1950s (learn more about us, here.)
The company has boomed in revenue, coming close to $100 million last year. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has recognized the company as one of the best places to work in the state. Morales was named to the Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame earlier this year. The company has expanded to other cities in the state, as well as to Louisville.
Morales looks beyond the bottom line, retaining top employees with benefits such as annual trips to build homes for the poor in Mexico. But the bottom line is still there. “In this industry you’ve got to fill orders quickly,” said Director of Human Resources Monique Charlebois. “If you have associates working too slowly, you have to help them pick up the pace.”
Morales is gradually turning over management to the next generation, including his son Seth as president. A former Purdue football star, Seth wants to keep it a family business. “Our motto is building a better future one story at a time,” he said.
Pulliam is associate editor of The Star. Email him at Russell.Pulliam@indystar.com.