By tradition, yesterday's meeting of the Greater Washington Board of Trade had the trappings of almost any other business annual meeting--the slick annual report, the election of officers and the gathering of the corporate faithful. But unlike most other annual meetings, there is no traditional profit-and-loss statement to show how the areas business leadership is doing.
Neither is there a bottom-line figure toward which the BOT labors. Its goals, although pursued in concrete fashion with specific programs, are much more abstract. In the words of outgoing President J. Pat Galloway, "Two words that we have used this year to describe our efforts are 'regional' and 'involved' . . . You can make a difference by this involvement. I'm pleased to report to you that during 1981, the Board of Trade has been very actively involved in regional business issues and programs."
The profit or loss by an organization such as the Board of Trade must be judged by unmeasurables--business climate, perception, quality of life--and the annual meeting then reports to the membership its activities in the pursuit thereof.
That means a lot of public thank-yous, bow-taking and applause, dished out over lunch. Yesterday, the BOT publicly thanked itself for a year's worth of hard work. But it also publicly thanked an institution and an individual for their singular efforts toward a mutual goal: quality of life.
Honored for their contributions to the region and their help in "linking the community together," the BOT gave its Golden Links awards to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and to Bill Gold, for 34 years the author of The Washington Post District Line column.
The BOT's choices are significant because they reflect what the organized business community here is up to. The BOT has recognized, rightly, that business growth, especially in recessionary times, means promoting an attractive business climate, which, in turn, means advertising an attractive quality of life--a quality enhanced by lively community commentary (Gold) and attractive community events (JFK's programs).
While the BOT members smiled, shook hands and traded business cards, some other folks involved in attracting and keeping businesses in this area have been shaking fists and trading business barbs.
In the wake of Mobil Oil Corp.'s decision to consider a site in Fairfax County rather than develop one in Montgomery, County, Chamber of Commerce President Barry F. Scher said the chamber has chosen to go one step beyond diatribe. It has announced a program aimed at al leviating some of the transportation and taxation vexations associated with Shady Grove and the I-270 corridor.
"What is now needed is a partnership of the private-public sector to do whatever it will take to ensure economic development in our county," he said. Before making the announcement, the chamber reviewed the history of Shady Grove development.
"What we found was plenty of historical rhetoric, but little action as exemplified by today's many obstacles for developing the Shady Grove area," he said, citing transportation particularly.
Research by the chamber turned up this reference to Shady Grove's development needs in a February 1979 report by the Economic Development Advisory Board: "There is a serious lack of coordinated implementation planning for public facilities for local, state and federal government agencies to serve the public and to accommodate both public and private major developments. . . ."
The chamber said Mobil's rejection of Montgomery has been estimated to cost the county possibly 10,000 jobs and maybe $70 million in revenues during the next two decades. "We feel that this loss, while quite serious, must provide the impetus now for the county to work even harder to solve the financial problems that need to be addressed if the Shady Grove area is to attract further development," Scher said.
County lines, when it comes to development, are less of an issue for governmental entities in some parts of this region.
A Fairfax County developer, Benchmark Development Co. Inc. of McLean, wants to build two office-warehouse complexes, one in Stafford County and one in Fairfax County. Apparently frustrated in its efforts to get Fairfax to approve industrial revenue bonds for anything other than "true industries," Benchmark approached Stafford's Industrial Devlopment Authority with its plans.
According to news reports, IDA officials had few qualms about supporting the $1 million issue for the Stafford complex. And although approving a $4 million sale for the Fairfax project made some IDA members uneasy, they voted yes anyway.
Charles Bassing, Benchmark president, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Neither could representatives of Fairfax's Economic Development Authority, which aggressively promotes the county's business interests.
Proximity to federal government agencies is one of this region's "natural resources" for the attraction of business and commerce and related activities, such as trade associations. And it's one of the reasons cited by the American Newspaper Publishers Association's decision to move its Research Institute from Pennsylvania to Reston. The ANPA broke ground there yesterday for a $5 million expansion of its Newspaper Center national headquarters.