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Advocates continue to push for more local residents to be hired for infrastructure projects

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

Advocates for local hiring on the Interstate 81 project in Syracuse hope proposed federal legislation will help get more Syracuse residents on job crews.

The Build Local, Hire Local Act would invest in infrastructure projects like the reconstruction of Interstate 81, creating hiring targets, funding training, and giving contract opportunities to minority, women and veteran-owned businesses.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) the bill's sponsor, said it will right the wrongs of the past, when construction of Interstate 81 in Syracuse cut off whole neighborhoods from economic opportunity.

"It’s very important for Upstate, because we have a legacy of our transportation networks being done in a very divisive way," said Gillibrand.

Deka Dancil, president of the Urban Jobs Task Force said this would help her group's goal of creating jobs for residents of the city of Syracuse, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. And while federal legislation is key, Dancil said there are still some roadblocks. For example, she’d like to see more support from labor unions.

"If they are in such support of the bill, then why are they not here? I have heard from others that they are starting to be receptive to the idea, so that makes me hopeful. But it takes them coming on board, and also the State Department of Transportation, who is the decision maker on I-81," said Dancil.

Gillibrand said she is optimistic the Build Local, Hire Local Act will make it through Congress.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.