Declaring he's bullish on Washington, Robert Linowes acknowledged the accolades of his business and governmental colleagues last night by challenging them to reject the city isolationism of the past and to consider the potential of the region.
The Greater Washington Board of Trade honored Linowes, former president of the organization, as its 34th "Man of the Years" before a capacity crowd at the Capital Hilton Hotel.
Tributes and comments came from Maryland Sen. Charles Mathuas, Board of Trade President Ralph Frey, last year's honoree Edwin Hoffman of Woodward & Lothrop, and Mayor Marion Barry.
In prepared remarks, Linowes called the Washington area "the most fascinating, unique and promising large community on the face of the earth . . . Its growth and development has been absolutely dazzling."
But while business and government can point to the achievements of the past, Linowes asked about the future.
"Can Washington enjoy a regional role or will it cling to its own turf? Will the local business community be capable of providing more than mere economic leadership?
"In short, will Washington play ahead or will it stay behind?
"Beneath the smooth veneer of this community lies the seeds of too many problems ready to bear more bitter fruit under the right conditions, "Linowes said.
"How do we reconcile the highest per capita income in the nation with the highest rate of youth unemployment?" he asked.
Linowes cited the contradictions of the Washington area's business milieu: the largest concentration of trade associations and high-technology firms competing for choice sites around the Beltway, but few clean industries for the semiskilled worker inside and outside the District line.
Drawing support from figures expected from the 1980 census, Linowes reminded his audience that the Greater Washington area is growing beyond the Beltway suburbs, making 23 separate jurisdictions dependent on each other for economic planning and development.
"Here is the prim example where the Board of Trade and the federal City Council have supplied tremendous leadership. Working together with the (Baltimore/Washington) Common Market they are moving us forward to a new economic era for the entire region.
"We must remove old barriers and avoid putting new ones in the way. Our Boom Town profile could develop a very soft base if we don't reverse the trend toward being too restrictive or too oppressive in our thinking, our planning or our poilicies," Linowes said.