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Thursday, March 6, 2008

City alderman with host of past successes now looks to future

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Alderman Greg Morehead has a habit of turning problems into opportunities.
He can’t read music, but is a professional drummer for Danger Zone, a band that plays for national acts and television’s top shows. He once had bad credit, but now runs a credit repair service. Morehead’s battle against Internet spam on his home computer turned into a computer security business.
After Morehead taught himself about personal finance to improve his credit, he launched a business that offers financial literacy seminars.
Yet the economic downturn also means customers will have a hard time paying. The Moreheads do some work pro bono, but are in the process of turning the credit repair service into a nonprofit agency.
All of the ventures fall under the umbrella of the GR Business Group, owned and run by Morehead and his wife, Shanah, who work in such tight collaboration they seem to share a mental connection that allows them to complete one another’s sentences.
“If there is something we want,” Greg said, “we are going to work as hard as we can to get it,” Shanah finished. They recently started a financial planning newsletter for Christians and a Web site that offers their services at www.grbusinessgroup.com.
They do this while raising their three boys, ages 3, 6 and 8.
Morehead, 30, is a jack-of-all-trades, because he prefers to do things himself.
“I wired my own house and I cut my hair,” he said. “He cuts the boys’ hair and he’s a licensed barber,” added his wife.
As the housing market drops and consumers get tense, the Moreheads envision turning problems into opportunities, particularly in the area of financial literacy.
The first lesson they try to drill into clients is the simplest: “You have to learn about the difference between things you want and the things you need,” Shanah said. “You see people who earn hundreds of thousands who are in debt. A lot of us weren’t taught how to budget, how to save.”
Hope Howard of New Haven is one of the Morehead’s credit repair customers.
“I’ve had a hard time getting approved for a mortgage. My score was horrible. I had 12 items removed from my credit report so far, so my credit will soar,” she said. She had tried to clean up the report herself, sending letters to the credit bureaus asking them to remove items, but had little success. “They still wouldn’t take me off,” she said. “Greg said that there is a certain language that you need to use with them and it worked.”
In addition to music and business, Morehead dove whole-heartedly into local politics, running for alderman of the 22nd Ward after living there barely two years.
Shortly after they bought a comfortable Frances Hunter Drive home they learned the development had been built on the demolished site of Elm Haven, a public housing project notorious for violent crime.
Rather than shrink back in fear or move to the suburbs, Morehead volunteers as an alderman, an unpaid position with a $2,000 stipend that can take as much time as a 20-hour-a-week job at times.
In a part of the city where the town-gown clash becomes more evident, as Yale’s campus abuts the economically challenged Lower Dixwell Avenue neighborhood, Morehead became a unifying figure. During his first campaign, he befriended Yale Democrats and won their endorsement for alderman. The Moreheads took their three children and knocked on 1,000 doors in the 22nd Ward to meet neighbors and ask for support.
Morehead’s strength, his fearlessness, once nearly proved his undoing.
“I thought I was Evel Kneivel and I took a lot of chances,” he said. “I developed a relationship with God. God gave me a second chance. When I was in church I was thinking about everything else. I was hitting brick walls.”
Then he survived the stampede at a 1991 rap concert at City College of New York in which nine people were trampled to death... “I was stepping over bodies. God has a way of getting your attention.”
That proved a turning point for him, a time when he discovered faith.
Today, Morehead gives God all the credit for his success and still goes to his home church in Mount Vernon. “Our family philosophy is put God first,” Morehead said. “First, before we started any of the businesses, we prayed about it.”
“God gives us insight that we, in and of ourselves, wouldn’t have,” Shanah said.

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