When J. W. (Bill) Marriott decided on a theme for his first major public address on national problems, last Feb. 24 in St. Louis, he focused on an issue that since has been the subject of headlines from coast to coast.
"I suggest a revolt," he told the annual convention of the American Marketing Association.
"A taxpayers' and business leaders' revolt against far more government than we need. Or deserve. Or Want. Or will stand for. Or will pay for," he added.
In his talk that day, which reflected the serious and conservative spirit of the Marriott family that has guided his company for half a century, Bill Marriott emphasized the word "pay."
"When you think of how government has grown, consider this: The average taxpayer has to work until May [each year] to pay his taxes. If that's not madness, I don't know what is," he asserted.
The subsequent taxpayers' revolt in California and forces that may lead to similar property tax reductions in other states, shows that Marriott's judgement was prescient.
And, in a recent interview, the Washington businessman said he thinks the revolt against big government and economic judgement by governments has only begun.
"Government interference . . . is the biggest single problem we have . . .if enough of us try to change it, we will have an impact," Marriott said in the interview.
At the moment, he continued, the "basic problem" appears to be the Carter administration, "which doesn't know how to work with Congress . . . there is a definite conservative shift in the country, people want less taxes and less government interference in their lives."
Marriott is president and chief executive of Marriott Corp., a local company that began in Horatio Alger style with a root beer stand. Now, Marriott is a national and international hotel, airline catering, entertainment and food service company with sales that exceed $1 billion a year.
The firm was founded by Bill Marriott's mother and father with a deep sense of pride in hard work and accomplishment that has its roots in the Mormon religion. It has become the only home-grown business that has a major impact on the local economy as well as a growing world-wide presence.
But Marriott has not rolled up a record of 15 percent annual gains in profits and sales because of sentimental attachment to D.C. Its area business is big but concerntrated in the more affluent suburds. This has led to some critism among local business and community leaders about the company's alleged lack of investment in its home town.
The company's headquarters is in the Bethesda suburbs and a new headquarters complex there will open next Christmas. All of its area hotels are in the suburbs, too.
In future months, however, Marriott's business in the District is about to assume a new image-reflecting the company's decision that Washington has joined those few major cities around the country where downtown investment will pay off in future profits.
Work has started on the company's first hotel operation in the city surrounding the Blackie's House of Beef restaurant at 22nd and M Streets NW, which Marriott will manage. Yesterday, Marriott joined with a developer in proposing a major complex in the city's old downtown retail core across Pennsylvania Avenue from the District Building.
"We want to be near the convention center with a major convention hotel in Washington," said Marriott of his firm's plans for downtown and a proposed D.C. convention complex that requires such commitments as that announced yesterday before Congress approves initial spending.
"We need to put more people to work," he added, pointing to statistics showing higher unemployment in the city than in the suburbs.Today, about 2,000 Marriott employes work in the city and the hotels will add several hundred each.
He had a warning for the D.C. government, just as earlier he lashed out at government in general. The D.C. minimum wage scales - higher than those of the suburbs - only discourage business and jobs, he stated.
Marriott's overall investment in D.C. and surrounding suburbs today is about $90 millon. There are four hotels: Twins Bridges was opened in 1957, Key Bridge (1959, Crystal City (1970), and Dulles (1970). A 300-room Bethesda Marriott is set to open this year and the hotel atop Blackie's will open in 1980.
In addition to a hotel near the convention center (either in the project proposed yesterday or at another downtown site, Marriott revealed that two or three additional suburban hotels will be developed in the area within four years - creating the largest notel operation the largest hotel operation by Marriott in any city.
Locally, Marriott also operates two airline catering kitchens at National and Dulles airports, operates more than 100 restaurants (Roy Rogers, Big Boy, Hot Shoppes, Farrell's ice cream parlors, Joshua Tree, Phineas, Hogate's Port O'Georgetown, Franklin Stove, Garibaldis), produces food from its Fairfield Farm Kitchens on Addison Road, and manages more than 40 food service operations at educational, financial government, health and business buildings.
Overall, some 14,000 area residents work for Marriott with an annual payroll that exceeds $80 million; many employes receive tips, which adds to the total dollar impact. The company's sales in the area exceed $160 million a year and area taxes paid by Marriott top $6 million a year.
Althouh metropolitan Washington is an important market for Marriott, it ranks No. 2 behind that of California - where the firm employs more than 11,000 and takes in annual revenues of more than $200 million.
Marriott forecast that attitudes about zoning, which have prevented the company from constructing several new hotels in California, will change in the wake of Proposition 13's victory there. He said tax savings that result from the voters' decision will be invested in expansion in that state.
Locally, Marriott said his firm remains interested in locating an amusement park in the greater Baltimore-Washington area, despite two zoning rebuffs by Howard County officials. He flatly ruled out a third attempt to locate in Howard, although county officials have launched a drive to attract business.
The most likely sites for such a theme park, similar to Marriott operations near Chicago and San Francisco, are Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties.