Walking through downtown Syracuse, you see construction sites everywhere. A new hotel in Armory Square, office buildings being converted to apartments, and new medical facilities are just a few of the pricey developments that could put people to work.
But the Urban Jobs Task Force says developers of these sites are hiring few, if any, local workers. At a press conference Wednesday, Task Force member Aggie Lane says she is frustrated that those developers are not being held responsible for giving back to the community they’re building in.
The Urban Jobs Task Force wants to secure jobs for city residents and subcontracts for local small businesses, and they believe a perfect place to start is the $350 million Inner Harbor Development. So far, though, they’ve received tepid feedback from the mayor’s office and other elected officials.
Mike Erwin runs Greater Syracuse Works, which tries to create employment for underprivileged city residents in the business’s locality, and he’d like to reach an agreement with the developer. Ideally, he says Community Benefits Agreements would be the best way to go, because they involve community groups, business developers, and also local governments.
Community Benefits Agreements can also involve incentives like assistance for minority contractors and woman-owned business, training for businesses and individuals, and the presence of a monitoring organization, which Erwin says should, “hold everybody’s feet to the fire.” The Task Force would also like to ensure that action is taken to require the agreements for future large-scale development projects in the Syracuse area.
Community Benefits Agreements have been successful in other cities such as Wilmington, Delaware, Portland, Oregon and most recently Los Angeles, California. Unemployment rates in Syracuse are as high as 14 percent in the Inner Harbor Area and 26% of Syracuse residents live in poverty. Supporters of the Task Force say that new employment opportunities could go a long way to help city residents.