Representitives of the nation's business community generally have greeted the election of Ronald Reagan with unrestrained glee. The Washington area's business leaders are no exception if the views of Oliver T. Carr Jr., president of The Oliver T. Carr Co., and Edwin Hoffman, chairman of Woodward & Lothrop, are any indication.
Both are former chairmen of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and long-time observers of the area's business community. They were interviewed separately on Friday for this story.
Carr was a District delegate to the Republican National Convention for George Bush, and earlier in the campaign, Hoffman was a supporter of John Connally. Both men said they voted for Reagan.
What does the election of Ronald Reagan mean to the local business community?
Carr: I attended a meeting yesterday (Thursday) of a large group of local business people. The reaction is that we are buoyed by the apparent change in attitude toward business. Business people in recent years have felt a little bit set apart from the community.
While they've been making valuable social and economic contributions, they feel they haven't been perceived that way. They will be looked at differently in their communities and that is a good fresh feeling.
Hoffman: I'm ebullient. I couldn't be more pleased. The party and the person understand best how to treat the economy. It's the greatest thing that has happened since I've been alive. I've worked fairly hard for his election, too.
How do you think the atmosphere for business will change under the Reagan Administration?
Carr: We all deal with things like inflation, interest rates and government attitudes toward regulation. I look for a more business-like management of the federal government and that will transmit itself down to the local government.
Perhaps there will be a modest lessening of regulation. We look for hopefully sounder and less erratic money markets. If money is less expensive we can better plan and provide goods and services. I'm not suggesting that this administration will transform the nation overnight. I just sense the attitude will be considerably different.
Hoffman: There will be an atmosphere condusive to capital spending and developing for the future. Reagan believes in business. I'm really turned on. Above all, Reagan is the kind of guy who is going to bring in responsible people who business will be pleased to work with, as opposed to the current administration.
He'll have people who understand Washington, D.C. and how it works. All the people I read about being considered for top jobs have been here before and done it before, in contrast to our friends from Georgia.
How will the local economy directly be affected by the new administration?
Carr: There are a lot of old sayings about people leaving the city. You'll see a lot of new faces. The old ones may leave office, but won't leave town. I think there will be shifts in research and development firms. If federal programs deal more with defense than environment, some of those firms will charge the thrust of their work.
But because our economic base is much more diverse than it used to be, the effect of the shift may not be felt at all. Business in general in this particular metropolitan area will improve as all these national problems are brought under control. There are a lot of 'for sale' signs up today but the interest rates are absolutely intimidating. We have a direct housing problem. iThe national problem affects the local markets.
Hoffman: The happiest people in town are going to be the real estate people. It will be an absolute boom to owners of real estate. They will fare very well. It will take a while to get retail back on its feet, despite the euphoria. Inflation and uncertainty will continue for several months ahead of us.
From all I've read it looks tough for the first six months of the year (1981). Unitl we get a lid on inflation, I don't care who's in the White House. It won't be easy. We're not making a lot of plans. I expect a difficult November and a pretty good December.
What might the election of Reagan mean for the District government's financial difficulties?
Carr: I don't think the federal government will be any less interested in seeing that the city survives. I will lobby to see that the city gets an adequate federal payment. Some of the concerns (about the Reagan administration) expressed by [D.C. Delegate Walter] Fauntroy have been really ill timed and didn't show any respect for the future. I would think that the local politicians would begin to work with the new administration in a responsible manner.
Hoffman: Sen. [Patrick] Leahy (D-Vt.) will no longer be chairman of the District Committee. If Sen. Charles Mathias (R-Md.) takes the job, representing a state that borders on the city, it should be interesting. I can't go beyond that, I don't know.
Black leaders in this area and across the country have expressed fears that their concerns will be ignored in the new administration? How do you answer their fears?
Carr: I was a member of a predominately black delegation to Detroit. Our delegation felt the way to answer to needs of the black community here and elsewhere is a rebirth of the free enterprise system. More dependence on government is not the way to go.
I would hopr that people who do have concerns would rethink how that would effect them and not to be too affected by campaign rhetoric, but by the results I believe they will see.
Our local delegation was concerned that there would be a swing to the right that goes too far. The perception that the Reagan administration would seem to represent a total right wing mind-set that is not concerned with the rights of women, the environment and urban ills, I don't think is true. People are still very concerned about those problems. We intend to keep working at those things, regardless of how we go at it.
Hoffman: I assume that because of the caliber of people that come in this will be a fair and intelligent administration. It will not select ethnic groups or any groups to discriminate against. My guess is that because of the eventual improvement in the economy, blacks and whites together will both do a lot better.
My guess is that they will be so sensitive to the issue that they will bend over backwards to make sure it doesn't become an issue.