"I'm the happiest old newspaper man in the world," says Frank Martineau.

Martineau, a former reporter and public relations man, is head of Martineau Corp., publisher of Associations Trends. Association activity has increased tremendously in recent years, especially in Washington, and Martineau could not be happier.

"Associations are the best expression of democracy. They are direct inputs into the democratic process," said Martineau. "The fact that we have more and more is an indication that people are finding that this is the way to accomplish their ends."

Martineau Corp. is involved in association mnagement and consulting but Association Trends is the chief activity. Started in 1973 as a monthly newsletter, Association Trends is now a weekly with a circulation that includes 6,000 major national associations, 1,800 of which are in the Washington area.

According to Martineau, Washington leads New York and Chicago as a headquarters city for associations. He estimates that an average of one association a week moves to the metropolitan area.

Rosslyn, with 76 associations headquatered there, and Bethesda, with 66, are now major centers of association activity in the Washington area, Martineau said.

Voluntary associations have become an effective and essential part of the decision making and influencing process, Martineau believes. Their function involves much more than lobbying for specific legislation for specific interest groups.

"Associations are more and more becoming a direct expression of people's wishes and desires," said Martineau. "I don't think that government people really understand this."

Associations are no longer limited to trade groups, but embrace the legal, scientific, military, and cultural communities as well.

"For every association with one viewpoint another association with another viewpoint will rise up to counteract it. It is a natural combat of ideas," he said.