"Technology brought the economy down in the Adirondacks several years ago," he says. "Now, technology will bring it back."
He also has a plan. Gates, along with Clarkson President Tony Collins, is forming a new Adirondack Initiative for Wired Work hosted by Clarkson University. Together, they have recruited a team of regional leaders and energized professionals dedicated to revitalizing healthy economic growth in the Adirondacks. And the way forward is technology.
Gates was born in 1929, when the road was built that connected Raquette Lake and Blue Mountain Lake, where Gates grew up. Power, telephones, more roads and water systems followed, until an entire infrastructure was in place to support local business. But somehow, insidiously and over time, the economy lost its way.
Gates believes the answer lies in telecommuting.
"Here's what technology is doing," he says. "Accounting offices source India and the Philippines. MRIs and X-rays are read in China. Graphic designers and chip designers are global anywhere with the Web." Having built a company in India, Gates is confident the Adirondacks can compete on this level.
A year ago, Gates, the eldest of four children, became the last surviving member of his immediate family; his sister, Phyllis, and his two brothers, Charles and Bobby, all died within a year of each other. His wife, Betty, also passed away. As a tribute to all of them, Gates wanted to leave a legacy: to create jobs in the Adirondacks, and bring back economic life to the place his family has always called home.
A proud and active alum of Clarkson University, he knew he wanted Clarkson President Tony Collins on board.
Gates says, "President Collins doesn't just talk about creating economic opportunity in Clarkson's backyard. He has actually gone out and done it by fully committing the institution's research centers and signature work ethic to driving the infrastructure and resources that will make the region a premier place to live. New companies have emerged using leading-edge green technology and advanced materials from research labs. Upstart entrepreneurs can build dynamic business propositions with support from Clarkson's School of Business. And the administration, faculty and staff have been diligent about pursuing the capital resources to accelerate these opportunities."
President Collins and the University know that generations of students have called the Adirondacks their backyard paradise, and understand well the region's significance as a gateway to campus.
"Universities thrive, just like communities thrive, when they partner with others to become a constant source of innovation, creativity and connections to the global world," says President Collins. "Our pristine location and the unique character of the communities that share the Park with wildlife and recreation enthusiasts alike are our greatest assets - working wired in the Forever Wild is a creative lifestyle choice that complements the natural environment that we all embrace."
"If you build it, they will come," says Gates, who expects 150 to 200 attendees to the conference.
The effort will be supported by a marketing campaign that speaks to people who are passionate about the Adirondacks, who are ready to choose a different way of life and work, and who want to be a part of healthy, vital growth for our living park.
The strategic vision can be summed up in one line: "Let your front porch be your front office."