A rapid expansion of the business community in Reston in the past three years combined with a maturing of small enterprises has spurred creation of a Reston Board of Commerce.
"Reston is now such a sizable community that it is very difficult to keep track of what resources we have here and who is doing what," said board officer Karl Ingebritsen, citing one of the key reasons for the formation of the Board of Commerce in November.
The board is intended to promote the economy of the Reston area by providing a mechanism for identifying and building a consensus on issues important to the future of the Reston business community, Ingebritsen said.
That sense can then be expressed to local and state government officials, or so the board members hope. The board also plans to improve communications between existing businesses to encourage local firms to do business with each other and to provide a forum for exchange of ideas among business and professional people.
Reston has formed a board of commerce rather than a chamber of commerce because the area is not incorporated. The functions will be basically the same, Ingebritsen said.
The recent rapid growth of the Reston business community is a departure from its early days of slow, methodical expansion in the planned community 18 miles west of Washington along the Dulles access road, Ingebritsen said.
Earlier attempts at setting up such an organization failed because many of the prospective members were too busy just operating their own enterprises, he said. Also the size of the business community had remained managable and the need for an organization was not as pressing.
"A chamber of commerce has been talked about here for 10 years," said Ingebritsen, who is vice president of the commercial division at Wellborn Real Estate Co. Inc.
During the summer, the groundwork for forming the business organization was laid and a steering committee was formed.
Twenty-six representatives met at the steering committee's September session, and officers were elected to serve until formal elections were held.
The first general meeting was called in November, Ingebritsen said. The response was overwhelming.
Formal officers were elected at the board's monthly meeting Jan. 6 at the Sheraton International Center in Reston.
Patrick Kane, of the KRS planning firm in Reston, was elected president; Frederick Bley, of Optical and Electronic Research Inc., was named vice president; Patricia Noba, of Reston Copy Center, was elected secretary, and Ernest Bartholomew, of Arthur Young, was voted treasurer.
"One of my goals is to help the Board of Commerce become the source of new leadership for the community," Kane said in accepting the presidency. "I feel the board will become a very important and influential voice at the local, county, and even the state level due to the concentration and growth of high-technology and other business in Reston."
Once the commitment to create the organization was made and it was obvious it would get off the ground, the response of the community was tremendous, said Linda Cochran, an associate of the William C. Pflaum Co. public relations firm.
"People were very forthcoming once there was a hub around which to work," she said.
Cochran also believes the Board of Commerce will be instrumental in incorporating many of the new large companies now operating in Reston into the mainstream of the community.
"This has to be a more efficient way to integrate the new large firms into the community," Cochran said. "The institutions we presently have are oriented to residents. I think a business group recognizes the needs of the business community like no other group can."
Reston was started in the the early 1960s by Gulf Oil Co. as an experimental community with the goal of providing an environment to live, work and play in one area.
In the early years of the development, the residential and recreational goals were met. Reston's population grew from 5,720 in 1970 to 37,129 in 1980, an annual growth rate of 55 percent. Median household income rose from $15,410 to $41,500 during the same time with 60 percent of the households now having two working members.
Employment opportunities within the town in the 1970s failed to grow at a comparable rate.
But in the last three years, a combination of factors has changed this to make Reston one of the premier locations in the Washington area for employers.
Ingebritsen cited three reasons for the employment surge. He said Reston's close proximity to Dulles airport, the functional success of the town as a good place to live and the approval of a Dulles toll road to be completed in 1984 have led to an influx of new corporations.