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Just Beyond the Gateway

Willie Morgan can spot a carpentry mistake from 35 feet.

"Hey, take that board out, use that 3 1/2 inch piece as a guide," he says. "What you did was off by a little."

At first the worker says. "It's right, I think."

Morgan, a Syracuse city resident for over 50 years, chuckles as he gives direction on a porch renovation on Beard Avenue.

"Some day fellas like these here, they'll work on houses bought by a local neighborhood developer and they can start a business of their own," he said.

Morgan has been cynical in the past about development projects.

"I hoped that 'Gateway' would be one of those things that would help, but that has not been realized as of today," he said. He has high hopes for the new Syracuse University-inspired Innovation Center located in the Dunk & Bright facility.

"They've been very helpful and they're very adamant about it; they'll work with people," Morgan said.

Morgan is among several businesses waiting for applications to the Innovation Center to be processed. "I'm beginning to see something I had hoped would happen. Maybe some money will come this way not only for economic development, but to help black businesses. We just don't have black businesses on South Salina, we own the houses, we live on the south side, but we don't own that many businesses on the south side.

"It wasn't always like this," Morgan said. "We had car repair places owned by blacks. I remember Chevrolet Ben, Willie Lemon's, Slim Patterson. They were good businesses."

"Even though I've spent 25 years working for Community Development in the government, I've always been skeptical because most of the time these programs are run by small-minded people who really don't have the necessary skills to run a business. Most of the time these programs are designed by people who've never been in business."

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