BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE - In an era when technology is replacing ever more human workers, a group of local residents in concert with Clarkson University are attempting to rebuild an ever-dwindling Adirondack middle class. The Clarkson Adirondack Initiative seeks to promote the region as a place for white-collar professionals to conduct business, using the Internet to telecommute.
"Technology is what killed the economy of the Adirondack Park and it is what can bring it back," initiative co-chair and Blue Mountain Lake native Elmer Gates said June 2. "If a place has the technological infrastructure - like broadband - people can do their work from anywhere."
Gates said that as logging technology decreased the need for a human labor force, the quality of life and economic viability of Adirondack residents declined sharply. The initiative is focusing on bringing white-color, middle-class workers to the region, where they can do much of their work from home over the Internet.
"Why not let your front porch be your office?" Gates asked. "The presence of America-based virtual call centers - for example - is expanding rapidly."
Gates - a lifelong entrepreneur who has founded several companies in the U.S. and abroad - said that he is unimpressed with the help available for individuals looking to start a business in the Adirondack Park.
"I am disappointed by the lack of creativity by the officials in the Adirondacks," Gates said. "The Adirondacks have become nothing more than a tourist, second-home and retirement community - and that doesn't build a middle class."
Gates said that funding for the project stems from his personal assets and Clarkson University. According to university officials, Clarkson has began a congruent initiative meant to show students that business can be conducted in the park.
"We have been looking at how to advance creative work and lifestyle choices for some time," Clarkson University Vice President Kelly Chezum said Monday. "Trying to find ways for new commerce to emerge in the park that would have a negligible impact on the environment."