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San Antonio companies tout special ability employees at summit

At a summit hosted by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, several companies shared success stories of hiring employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

SAN ANTONIO — During a conference at Morgan's Wonderland on Friday morning, companies put a spotlight on their success stories of hiring employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce hosted the Project Ability Summit. Organizers say that businesses can cultivate a passionate, productive workforce by attracting employees from the IDD community.

A couple of local businesses already have shining stars on their team. They shared how the match-ups have been a success.

"My favorite thing about working here is I get along with everybody," said Michael McNabb, who’s been working at Frozen Beverage Dispensers in San Antonio for two years.

McNabb and his coworker Devend Bell were both hired by the manufacturer after being recommended by The Unicorn Center, a nonprofit that connects employers with members of the IDD community who are ready to work.

“I just love working with everybody here,” Bell said. “That's what makes me get up first thing in the morning, to be the first one here. I get my day started and greet everybody.”

Both McNabb and Bell stood out for their strong work ethic.

"It's great having them on our team because not only are they hard workers but they bring a great attitude and they're here all the time. You can always count on Mike and Devend to be here,” said FBD Supply Chain Manager Darryl Cline.

Ultrafryer is another San Antonio business that has found a dedicated employee with special abilities. Gadge Perez can be found on their production floor hard at work. He’s a pro at preparing shiny new fryers for testing.

"This is my first job. When I'm back in Iowa, I was trying find a job and no one can hire me. But Ultrafryer gave me a chance to work here," Perez said.

His managers say that Perez's attention to detail has proven valuable.

"Through the Texas Workforce, we have partnered with them. Gadge does have a work coach who comes monthly at a minimum,” said Ultrafryer human resources manager Nadia Yancey. “He does advise us on how to deal with any issues that may come up."

Other employees are educated about autism and workflow protocols are in place that help keep everyone safe and successful.

"Doing research is very important but having an open mind is even more valuable,” said Santiago Ramirez, the vice president of Ultrafryer. “The fact that everybody rallies around Gadge is, to me, just heartwarming."

Perez says that his coworkers have become family.

"We get along with each other, we talk about sports teams,” Perez said. “We talk trash about other teams like the Patriots."

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