Mayor Marion Barry said over the weekend that in a few weeks the city will launch "a major campaign to create a good feeling about Washington."

Barry, arriving 40 minutes late at the second annual Ferris Washington Showcase a forum sponsored by Ferris and Co., told the audience of about 100 persons that his administration is "committed to leading the way . . . in economic development."

"We must build and strengthen our public-private partnership," Barry continued. "The public can't do it alone and the private (sector) can't do it alone."

The Ferris forum held Saturday morning was the second of a two-part program featuring performance reports and predictions from the area's top executives in banking, retail and communications fields.

Representatives of the Marriott Corp., Geico Corp., American Security Corp., Giant Food Inc., Woodward & Lothrop and The Washington Post Co. all said their companies are doing well, and despite a gloomy outlook nationwide, they expect their businesses to continue to fare well this year.

Edwin K. Hoffman, chairman of Woodward & Lothrop, said that as far as profits, his store is consistenly among the top five in the country based on independent reports.

Even Geico, which was close to insolvency three years, is doing well and showing profits, according to company chairman John J. Byrne.

Gary L. Wilson, senior vice president for finance and development for the Marriott Corp., said that because of attempts several years ago to improve the hotel and restaurant company's profits, this year the company expects to reach its goal of 15 percent return on investment, three years ahead of schedule.

In response to a question from the audience, Wilson said Marriott does not intend to open a gambling casino in Atlantic City, N.J., and he does not expect a gas crunch this summer to affect Marriott's business.

Hoffman said in response to questions that February was "the worst month in the history of retailing," referring to the huge snowfall on George Washington's birthday and the subsequent cancellations of sales planned for that day. "Feb. 19 will be on my tombstone."

Hoffman, answering another question, said Woodward & Lothrop has no immediate plans to open any stores outside the Washington area or diversify its business.

"We're trying now to determine how far away people recognize the name," Hoffman said. "We're investigating smaller units in smaller cities, but history says if you do something other than run department stores, you'll stub your toe."