The Greater Washington Board of Trade in 1981 plans to stretch its hands both across the ocean and deeper into the suburbs, according to its new president, J. Pat Galloway.
On the one hand, its prime targets for new business for the area this year include international companies, along with high-technology firms, says Galloway, regional manager of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
The business group, he said, also wants to become more regionally oriented -- which translates into more emphasis on the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs -- rather than focusing primarily on the District.
The District has been losing businesses to its better-heeled suburban neighbors over the past few years and generally has been the wallflower hostess of the area's new-business cotillion. But Galloway sees the Board of Trade's role as promoting the region as a whole and staying neutral in the competition between the local jurisdictions in trying to draw in new companies.
"What we try to do is encourage the District of Columbia to be as competitive as possible [with the suburbs] in business incentives and to take stock of itself to make sure there are not business disincentives . . . whether you're talking about property taxes or minimum wage or unemployment compensation," Galloway said in a recent interview.
"Even though we are areawide, we are not abdicating our interest in the District of Columbia," he insisted. "But we more and more believe that the success of Greater Washington depends on the total area and not just one part of it."
At the same time, the board also is preparing recommendations on revitalizing a large part of the downtown area -- in addition to that being redeveloped by the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. -- more to the North and East toward Massachusetts Avenue and including the New York Avenue corridor, near the site of the convention center at 11th Street and New York NW.
The board plans to present these recommendations by Jan. 15, Galloway said, and they are to include four basic elements: commercial development, residential development, retail development and preservation of historic structures. The recommendations are intended to be a balanced approach that will make for "a more lively city . . . a 24-hour city," he added.
As evidence of the board's expanded focus, Galloway cites plans for creation of offices and staffs in Richmond and Annapolis when the state legislatures are in session to keep tabs on state legislation that affects D.C.-area businesses. In the past, the group has concentrated its legislative efforts on the District and federal governments.
In addition, Galloway said, members of the Virginia legislature will be touring Northern Virginia this month at the invitation of the Board of Trade in another get-acquainted venture.
In targeting international companies this year, he said, the board plans to invite about 15 or 20 to a combined promotional effort where they would hear sales pitches by the various local jurisdictions on the virtues of each. Modeled on the well-received promotional tours, called Executours, for U.S. executives from businesses considering relocation, the international Executour would be for U.S. companies that operate abroad and for foreign firms that do business in the United States.
The board claims that its Executours, started about 2 1/2 years ago, have been responsible for a number of the area's new businesses. A spokeswoman last year estimated that about a third of those invited had relocated or expanded into the area.
"Because of the diplomatic representation and foreign government representation, [the Washington area] is almost a natural location" for international companies of all kinds, Galloway said.
Other kinds of businesses he sees as having good potential for growth in the region this year are high-technology industries, national headquarters of corporations, professionals and associations.
"These are not of a blue-collar nature, it is true. They do not provide the industrial base, but we think we have to go with the strengths of the area." The D.C. area simply is not suitable for manufacturing firms, he said.
Service industries provide the best prospects for creating new jobs for lower-skilled workers in the region, Galloway said, and he pointed to "tremendous opportunities" for service industries to develop in conjunction with the new convention center, scheduled to open in 1982.
The Sears executive expects to see some slowing in creation of new malls after the explosion of development in the 1970s, though he predicted the D.C. area would continue to be "a very inviting part of the country" for retailing. The high cost of construction, of land and of money will make it more difficult to expand in retailing, however, he said.
In addition, he believes mall developers in the future will have to make more efficient use of space which could mean smaller, taller or simply less elaborate and expansive malls.
One trend Galloway expects to continue is the snowballing influx of national associations to the area because of their increasing desire to be close to the seat of federal power.
The new board president also feels the Washington area could well be primed for new businesses that the board and the local governments have not even thought of targeting:
"I'm sure that we are in a good position to participate in emerging industries and in new industries and . . . to be the recipient of surprises and new businesses that would be totally different in this marketplace."