Julia M. Walsh, the first woman president of The Greater Washington Board of Trade in its 96-year history, said yesterday that her priorities this year are business development, transportation and unemployment.
At a press conference yesterday, Walsh said her goal is to make the Washington area a "world leader in business and industry." Walsh is the managing director of Julia M. Walsh & Sons Inc., a regional investment house.
"For so long, we've thought of D.C. as a sleepy, southern government town," Walsh said. "My agenda is to expand the private sector. I've looked at the city from several angles, and its problems can't be solved by the government alone."
Walsh plans this year to allocate resources, including an additional $100,000 in board funds, to compete with other metropolitan regions in attracting new businesses, she said. Planned projects include additional domestic trade missions throughout the country, a closer alliance with the Washington/Baltimore Regional Association and continuation of a program to attract business to Washington from Europe.
When the Board of Trade conducted a mission to Europe last year, it "got some nibbles from parties that want to see and feel and touch what's here in Washington," Walsh said. She said that the Board of Trade specifically wants to attract high-technology firms from abroad to the area. But, she quickly added, "We're not proud. We'll take a good service industry any day."
The Board of Trade has no specific projects in the transportation area, but it plans to form a permanent transportation committee to act as a "convener/facilitator" to coordinate other groups. Ed Colodny, chairman of USAir Inc., will head the new committee.
The board plans to broaden its approach to unemployment and study the larger unemployment picture to see how the business community can become more involved, Walsh said. While the board has been involved primarily with summer programs such as the Summer Jobs for Youth campaign, it now plans to focus more on job readiness and job accessibility. On-line training programs will be brought into public schools to help students prepare for area jobs, Walsh said.
Thompson Powers, a partner in the law firm of Steptoe and Johnson, will head a task force on unemployment issues ranging from training for entry-level workers to improving communications and transportation between parts of the region with jobs and those without.
The board also plans to examine public safety, particularly in the workplace.
Walsh, who says she has been the "token woman on several business task forces," has served as director of the Convention Center and the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. She was formerly the vice chairman of the board of directors of Ferris & Co. Inc., a local brokerage firm.
During the past 10 years, more women have been given opportunities in business, Walsh said. Fifty percent of this year's new Board of Trade members are women, she added.