GATES Construction is a year into developing Southwest Florida’s largest construction project, the $306.2 million expansion of the Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers.
What a way to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary.
“No other project in town is even close to that size,” chairman Todd Gates says of the hospital project. The joint venture with Skanska USA will add 367,500 square feet to the current 531,000-square-foot facility.
His Bonita Springs-based company’s numerous high-profile projects include the $250 million Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, several major continuing care communities, government projects such as the Lee County Justice Center renovation and recreational favorites such as Silverspot at Mercato. Gates’ career is marked by a business instinct to understand market trends and make entrepreneurial decisions based on that foresight.
“There are a lot of people out there with a lot of great ideas, but they don’t act on them,” he says.
Gates acts on his.
In the early 1990s, Gates made a significant entrepreneurial decision. He opened the Yellow Pages and counted the number of residential contractors. They totaled in the hundreds. Commercial contractors were another story, a handful at best.
“Going after a market that was thriving with very little competition was the reason I started in commercial contracting,” he says.
His company has experienced a 35 percent increase in revenue from 2017 to 2018, he says, and is on track for another approximately 25 to 30 percent increase next year (he declined to give revenue or employee figures). Those figures are buoyed by projects locally and nationally, including a new Silverspot Cinema in North Carolina, new mall in San Antonio, Texas, golf course in Costa Rica and the new, $3.5 million Glass Animal Hospital at the Naples Zoo. The one- story, 9,144-square-foot facility is scheduled to open later this year.
GATES Construction continues to take bold steps by expanding into new markets. The company opened a third U.S. office in Palm Beach Gardens in May. The office joins a year- old office in Sarasota and its Bonita Springs headquarters.
“Diversification and pursuing multiple market sectors has been a large part of our success for the entire 25-year history of our company,” Gates says.
Nevertheless, the firm upholds its presence in the sectors upon which GATES built its foundation—health care, hospitality and faith-based projects. Three projects awarded in 2018 reflect that focus: an expansion of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, the remodeling of The Ritz-Carlton, Naples and updates to The Ritz- Carlton Golf Resort, Naples.
The ability to secure those high-profile jobs, and the many others GATES has completed in the past, is a testament to the company’s tenacity and character, according to John Hayes, president and CEO of GATES.
“It takes the very slow tedious process of building a good reputation over many, many years and going above and beyond in whatever it takes to make sure each and every client is satisfied and pleased with the product we delivered.”
Most of GATES’ business, he says, is garnered by repeat business or word of mouth.
“The company’s been around for 25 years. Both Todd and I have been in the area for well over 30 years now. We stand behind our work,” Hayes says.
During the 2008 Great Recession, GATES relied on the health care and public sectors when other commercial and residential projects decreased. GATES entered the construction market in Panama with projects including a 250-acre demonstration and learning center for Caterpillar. The company remains active in Central America, he says.
“There were many, many months where the international business was actually supporting our national business in the downturn,” he says.
Looking at the company's first quarter-century, Gates says he is most proud of his relationships with his family, associates, clients and business partners, including Hayes and the Butz family out of Pennsylvania.
“Nobody gets to where they are by themselves,” he says.