Back

Elmer Gates, Lehigh Valley Business Leader and LVEDC Co-Founder, Dies at Age 86

By Colin McEvoy on December 15, 2015

Elmer Gates, one of the original co-founders of LVEDC, has died at age 86. (photo courtesy Lehigh Valley Business)

Elmer Gates, one of the original co-founders of LVEDC, has died at age 86. (photo courtesy Lehigh Valley Business)

For the second time this month, the Lehigh Valley has lost one of its most revered business leaders, and one of the original founders of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

Elmer Gates, the former president and chief operating officer of Fuller Co. in Bethlehem, and a passionate advocate for regionalism and philanthropy in the Lehigh Valley, died on December 14. He was 86.

“The modern Lehigh Valley as we know it today is very much a creation of Elmer Gates and that generation of business leaders,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “He had the vision to understand that we could be stronger as a region than as individuals, and he had the business sense and force of personality to make it happen.”

A two-time past chairman of LVEDC, Gates came to the Lehigh Valley in 1982 when he began his tenure at Fuller Co., now known as F.L. Smidth Inc. Prior to that, he spent 31 years with General Electric, starting his career as an engineer before moving up the ladder to become general manager of the large motor department.

Gates was leading the Lehigh Valley Partnership when it initiated a study by a prominent national economic development firm to determine how we could be more effective in attracting new industry. His effort was partnered with Northampton and Lehigh counties, along with region’s three cities and local companies, leading ultimately to the creation of LVEDC.

Cunningham said Gates thrived on ideas and worked well with people in spite of ideological differences for the betterment of the region. He also mentored many young executives and supported causes like SkillsUSA, a partnership of students, teachers, and industry professionals working together to a ensure skilled workforce.

“When you think of Elmer, you think of the word leader,” Cunningham said.

Gates was considered a co-founder of LVEDC along with Bert Daday, Jack Jordan, and Walter Dealtrey. Dady, a long-time friend of Gates, died on November 25 at age 85.

Gates served on the board of directors for Lehigh Valley Partnership, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Ambassador Bank, and PPL Corporation, among others. He created the Gates Family Partnership, which makes entrepreneurial investments, and the Gates Family Foundation, which awards scholarships and grants to groups like the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, according to the Morning Call.

He also wrote a business memoir entitled, “U-Turn Leadership: Lessons Learned from a Lifetime of Leadership,” which was published this summer.

Gates most recently had homes in both Hanover Township, Northampton County, and his home in the Adirondacks in New York, where he was raised. Cunningham said he worked to improve that areas just as he did in the Lehigh Valley.

Public notice

The Green Knight Economic Development Corporation (GKEDC) in partnership with Northampton County and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has posted a cl[...]

Continue to Next Page

Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

By the Numbers
$43.3 Billion

2020 Gross Domestic Product

Investor Spotlight
City Center Lehigh Valley
Industry Spotlight

10.6% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing

Investor Spotlight
Lehigh Valley Health Network
By the Numbers
$3.8 Billion

Exports in 2019

Investor Spotlight
Air Products
Investor Spotlight
Lehigh Valley Electricians
By the Numbers
$66,865

Median Household Income

Investor Spotlight
PPL Electric Utilities
By the Numbers
676,700

Population

Investor Spotlight
Olympus
By the Numbers
347,612

Labor Force

Industry Spotlight

26.6% of Labor Force
Employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

By the Numbers
5,073

Technology Patents

Investor Spotlight
Mack Trucks
Investor Spotlight
UGI
Investor Spotlight
Magestic Realty Co
Investor Spotlight
NFI
Industry Spotlight

14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

Investor Spotlight
Wells Fargo
By the Numbers
$7.1 Billion

Manufacturing Contribution to GDP

Investor Spotlight
Truist
Industry Spotlight

69th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

Investor Spotlight
Key Bank
Industry Spotlight

10,754 degrees awarded by Lehigh Valley colleges (2017-18 academic year)

Investor Spotlight
St. Lukes University Health Network
Industry Spotlight

82,270 employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

Investor Spotlight
Workforce Board
By the Numbers
149,000

Population between ages 18 and 34

Investor Spotlight
FirstEnergy