James B. O'Brien, vice president and resident manager of the commercial leasing firm of Coldwell Banker, has been named chairman of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's Overall Economic Development Advisory Committee.
O'Brien has served for the past year as chairman of the committee's business development subcommittee. He succeeds Daniel J. Callahan, president of Riggs National Bank, as chairman of the full committee.
The committee's major goal for the coming year, O'Brien says, is creation of jobs for blue-collar and "low and middle skill" workers. The committee hopes these jobs will result from the attraction of "light assembly and production" firms to the District.
The "local development corporation," a public/private organization certified by the Small Business Administration to make loans to small businesses, will be one of the tools the committee plans to use in luring companies into the city.
"We've just created the local development corporation, the implementing arm of the Office of Business and Economic Development," O'Brien said. "Through the LDC, we'll be able, hopefully, to take the whole development process through urban development action grants, small business loans and industrial revenue bonds. These are some of the tools the LDC can utilize."
O'Brien points to the District government's ownership of various properties on which companies can locate as an added advantage in economic development efforts.
"The District does own and control some key parcels of land, one on the New York Avenue corridor and a couple of others over in Anacostia," O'Brien said. "There have been no new facilities built in the District for so long. If we get the right facilities, we get the right companies, the users of the space."
The advisory group also envisions a word-processing training program, O'Brien said.
As an observer of the Washington economic scene since the mid-'70s, O'Brien said he feels that, in contrast to conventional wisdom, economic development here, as exhibited by office construction, is healthy. He said office vacancies are not surpassed by the demand for space, that major firms are staying in the city and that new construction is continuing on a large scale.
Despite a recent decline in commercial leasing activity, he believes there is "an underlying demand" for office space.