A new consulting firm specializing in urban problem-solving recently opened its offices in Washington. Headed by Ben. W. Gilbert, Ben. W. Gilbert & Associates Inc. will focus on zoning, land-use planning, historic preservation and project development. The company will provide analysis and research services on urban issues for private and public clients.

Gilbert served in the District of Columbia government from 1972 to 1979 as general assistant to the mavor and also as the city's first planning director. He was responsible for establishing the District's central planning process under home rule. Gilbert also played a major role in preparing the Washington Civlc Center project and participated in the plan to revitalize Pennsylvania Avenue.

Before his government service, Gilbert worked for The Washington Post as reporter, city editor, deputy managing editor and associate editor. He also edited the award-winning public television program "Newsroom" on WETA-TV.

Upon resigning from the city planning post, Gilbert was cited for his "dedicated service" by Mayor Marion Barry, who added, "You have demon-started a high degree of commitment to the District of Columbia and its people."

Gary Seevers, until this week the acting chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, will teach the commondity business to Gold-man, Sachs & Co., the New York investment bankers.

Seevers said he will help Goldman, Sachs set up a new commodities division to provide futures market investment advice and services, primarily to institutional investors.

Goldman, Sachs has not been in the commodity business before. Seevers will become a vice president of the firm after his resignation from the CFTC becomes effective June 1.

Miechael H. Styles, a 30-year veteran of the State Department, will become the Washington representative of the International Air Transport Association, the organization of 103 world air-lines whose rate-setting activities are now under scrutiny by the Civil Aeronautics Board.

A spokesman for IATA said that Styles, who had a key role to play in negotiating recent bilateral air agreements as director of the State Department's Office of Aviation, would serve as a communications link. The appointment represents a serious IATA effort to improve communications both ways, he said. Styles will provide a liaison to regulatory and governmental authorities as well as help IATA understand the operations of the United States.

Lewis A. Engman, former chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, is slated to become president of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, a trade organization of 120 firms that make prescription drugs, biological products, diagnostic agents and medical devices.

Engman served as chairman of the FTC between 1973 and 1975 after a stint as assistant director of the Domestic Counsel at the White House. Most recently, he has been a partner in the Grand Rapids, Mich., law firm of Warner, Norcross & Judd.

James mcCullagh, operating vice president and manager of the Tysons Corner Bloomingdales, has been appointed regional vice president for the Washington, D.C., area. He will be responsible for coordinating advertising, sales promotion, public relations and community affairs for the company.

McCullagh joined Bloomingdales in 1975 as branch store manager for the Tysons Corner store. He was named operating vice president in 1976.

Edward M. Bernstein, head of EMB, Ltd., a local economic research organization, has won a citation form the Untiversity of Chicago Alumni Association as "the monetary expert's monetery expert.

Bernstein, a 1927 Chicago graduate, has had a long career in the field of international monetary matters, including service at the U.S Treasury and as the first research director of the International Monetary Fund.

He was one of the U.S. brain trust at bretton Woods that devised the IMF and the World Bank organizations after World War II. Currently, his private advice is sought by governments and central banks all over the world.

"No American economist," according to the Chicago citation, "has had a greater continuing impact on U.S. foreign economic policy than Edward M. Berstein, an impact that has been felt over a 35-year period."

George Shelton, owner of Whelton's Marketbasket, a Capitol Hill grocery store, has been named small-business person of the year for the Washington metropolitan area by the Small Business Administration.

Shelton has been in business at his current location 500 12th St. SE since 1976. He was assisted in establishing his store, which employs 30, by an SBA guaranteed loan. CAPTION: Picture 1, BEN W. GILBERT . . . first D.C. plnning chief; Picture 2, EDWARE M. BERNSTEIN . . . cited by university