Virginia, which often finds itself battling a backward, sleepy image, is rated the best state to locate in by European businesses, a state official said.

Virginia was the first state to begin luring foreign businesses, it "has an excellent reputation and we haven't changed our personnel" in offices overseas, said D. Warren Neiling, assistant director for the state's International Trade and Development Division. "We are rated number one in Europe."

About 120 foreign firms hiring 25,073 Virginians have located in the state, Neiling said, 107 of them since 1967 when the enticement of foreign business was stepped up. Those firms have hired 18,559 Virginians who paid $7 million in taxes. In addition, corporate and other taxes brought the total to $11 million the state accrued as a result of foreign businesses locating there, Neiling said.

Neiling was one of two speakers in a two-day lecture series at the James Madison University in the lush hills of the Shenandoah Valley. Ironically, hile many national and international firms consider the Shenandoah area fertile forplanting their businesses, many local residents want to maintain the sleepy nature of the area and are resisting some further encroachment by businesses.

Many firms are interested in the area because of its proximity to East Coast markets and sometimes relatively inexpensive land.

While Virginia is still luring business here, it is also the third state to engage in export, activities to the European markets, Neiling said. The state is trying to entice more state-based firms to do business abroad. In the Shenandoah region 27 firms are exporting goods valued at $26.9 million, according to 1976 figures, Neiling said. In today's terms that figure could easily reach $35 million "from the valley alone," Neiling said. Seven of those companies employ more than 2,000 Virginians, according to Neiling.

The state has assisted more than 250 Virginia firms in doing business abroad, he said.

Virginia was recently ranked 17th nationally in manufactured exports with a total of $1.5 billion in exported goods in 1976, an increase of 116 percent since 1976, an increase of 116 percent since 1972, a recent U.S. Department of Commerce study said. Its leading export was tobacco which was valued at $454 million in 1976 and contributed to 3,200 export-related jobs in the state, the report said.

A professor visiting from Taiwan later addressed the group of students, university faculty and local businessmen on opportunity for foreign trade in the Far East.

Dr. Paul S. C. Hsu, a visiting professor at James Madison from the National Cheng Chi University in Taiwan, said that for American firms seeking foreign business, "the Asian market is very dynamic. It's full of potential and it's substantial."

But hsu said that many Americans concentrate too heavily in domestic markets and when they do try to sell products abroad they often use poor marketing techniques, have few representatives in the foreign companies and little servicing outlets available for the products.

Far Eastern countries ranging from "the take off to highly developed countries like Japan." Hsu said, are interested in a number of different products that they themselves cannot supply.