Visitors to Washington often ask questions in this community of government and tourism.
But seldom do visitors have the opportunity offered yesterday to 40 special visitors to seek their answers from top area corporate executives and local government officials.
The occasion was a by-invitation-only introduction to metropolitan Washington for 40 visiting business and professional leaders, part of the most aggressive campaign over launched here to attract business and jobs to the regions.
Several area jurisdictions - notably Fairfax and Prince George's counties - have been promoting economic development agressively for some time.
But yesterday's opening for "Executour," sponsored and paid for by the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, was the culmination of an initial attempt to provide a "hard sell" for the entire metropolitan area. Earlier phases of the Board of Trade's campaign have included trips to other cities, films, brochures and informational services.
"We're very proud of our community . . . we want to show it off to you." Board of Trade President R. Robert Linowes told the visitors at an opening orientation presentation yesterday.
"We hope you'll share our enthusiasm" by considering locating, expanding or investing here, he added, getting to the point quickly.
Faced with visits, speeches and receptions that continued through dinner last night and resumes with breakfast this morning, the visitors will have little time to reflect upon the Board of Trade's program until it ends this evening.
But a leading Washington business executive acted as host for each visitor, and the area executives have been charged by the Board of Trade with maintaining contact after the visitors return to their home base.
Mark W. Johnson, assistant general attorney of the Columbia Broadcasting System was typical of the visiting executives. His firm is not considering relocation of its corporate headquarters from Manhattan but is studying plans for expanding CBS facilities here. His host for the visit is Delano Lewis, vice president of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co.
Other visitors included chief executives of a number of development and real estate companies that have not been active previously in the D.C. area, small corporations, and such trade and professional associations as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineer Inc. (now based in New York), the American Society for Training and Development (Madison, Wis.) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynnecologists (Chicago).
As Walter A. Scheiber executive director of the Metropolian Washington Council of Governments told the visitors yesterday the D.C. area has surpassed both New York and Chicago and now is the largest center for trade association headquarters employing more than 40,000 persons and adding close to $1 billion a year to the local economy.
Like other presentations yesterday, Scheiber's summation of Washington's booming economy emphasized affluence. The area is "unique healthy, vital and growing," he said.
Comments and questions by some of the visitors indicated they had little doubt about the local boom and the area's reputation of being virtually immune from recession.
They indicated an interest in the nuts and bolts of building and development here as well as some astonishment about the inability of the District government to chart its own economic future with final budget authority sill resting with the Congress.
In response to one question about government support for development. Scheiber noted that advocates of no growth or slow growth had been "extremely vocal in a number of the communities" several years ago.
But such voices are "no longer heard," and area government leader are convinced that "healthy" economic developments are essentical to their citizens" future in an "environment conductive to growth and development," he said.
Other issues raised by the visitors included the schedule for completion of the subway system and the availability of utility services in future years.
Schneiber said construction of the full 100-mile Metro is contingent on negotiations about future financing but he gave no hint of the possibility that a shorter system may be selected.
He was candid in describing the area's water and sewage treatment capacity problems but forecast that agreements will be reached within the "next few years" to provide "more than "ample" capacity to meet all possible development. Scheiber also told the visitors he knows of no constraints on future availability of electricity and natural gas, views that were not challenged by representatives of local utilities in the audience.
On the bust trip, visitors saw little of residential neighborhoods but did pass some rundown sections east of 15th Street, a strip of pornography shops downtown and sites for development along Pennyslvania Avenue NW.
"It's not what I call the scenic route, but that's the way it should be," commented Marsh Marshall, chairman of the M.S. Ginn office products company and head of the Board of Trade's business development bureau.
Later the visitors attended a Capitol Hill reception and presentation on the District economy. Today they will tour the suburbs and listen to presentations on the Maryland jurisdictions at Capital Centre and Northern Virginia at the BDM Corp. headquarters near Tysons Corner.
Acting Gov. Blair Lee of Maryland is scheduled to speak at the Capital Centre, and Virginia's government will be represented at BDM by Lieut. Gov. Charles S. Robb and Economic Development Secretary Frank Alspaugh.