The Greater Washington Board of Trade will push for development of high-technology industry in the region as a key element in an expanded program to attract and retain business, newly elected board President Thomas J. Owen indicated yesterday.

Owen said that transportation issues, health care, youth programs and greater involvement in legislative and political activities also will be priorities this year for the area's leading business advocacy organization.

Several of the board's programs and its plans for implementing them are direct responses to the economic climate, Owen said. Record unemployment, high office vacancy rates and reduced federal spending "are the pressures that plague the nation and our local economy as well," he added.

"With the explosion of information systems, biomedical research, defense-related research and telecommunications companies, we need to see that this segment of the business community is allowed to grow and prosper," said Owen, who also is chairman of Perpetual American Federal Savings and Loan Association. "If we don't, certainly other cities will."

State and local officials in Maryland and Virginia have made development of high-tech industry a key element of their economic development programs. Owen said board of trade officials plan to meet with executives from that industry to identify their special needs.

In a related development, Owen said the board will host an "executour" in May for U.S. business executives and representatives from international firms as a follow-up to the organization's business-attraction visit to London last year.

In the meantime, in its role as a business advocate, the board will increase its involvement in legislative matters in the District, Annapolis and Richmond. Three committees will be formed to monitor legislation, "particularly that which might serve to decrease the attractiveness of our region to employers," Owen explained.

As a response to increasing concern over rising health care costs, the board intends to play an active role in forming a regional health coalition.