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Advocates to Push for Commitment to Hire Local for I-81 Project at "Big Table" Meeting

WAER file photo

Several major stakeholders in the $2 billion I-81 replacement project will gather virtually Thursday to explore ways to ensure city residents can benefit from it.  It’s being billed as the I-81 Jobs Big Table meeting, and we’re checking in with some stakeholders, including the Urban Jobs Task Force. 

President Deka Dancil calls the meeting good start to securing a commitment to community workforce and project labor agreements for historically disadvantaged workers.

"If we do not do that, we will continue to see the outcomes that we see in our construction trade industry, which is mostly dominated by suburban white males. We want to make sure people who live in the city, people who are not white, as well as women are able to benefit, and of course we want unions to secure their jobs.  We don't want somebody from out of town coming."

Other stakeholders at Thursday’s meeting include the union, trades, state DOT, and key elected officials including Mayor Ben Walsh.  Dancil hopes all will offer innovative ways to maximize local hiring through policy, legislative, and regulatory actions.  She says later phases will involve more community and educational partners.

"We're going to need our OCM BOCES.  We're going to need our OCCs.  We are going to need community supports that help break down some barriers; so, who can help with child care, who can help with transportation, who can help get funding for training, who can help with recruitment."

 As for the future of I-81, the federal government received the state’s draft of its preferred community grid option about two weeks ago.  There’s no deadline for them to respond. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at