The region's principal business group is organizing a top-level economic "summit" meeting at which governmental, business and civic leaders will discuss ways to deal with the ailing local economy.
District Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon and Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer have already accepted the Greater Washington Board of Trade's invitation to meet in late February or early March. Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, the region's congressional delegation and a raft of others have also been invited to consider measures to counteract the regional recession.
Virginia, Maryland and the District are facing large budget deficits due to the declining economy's impact on tax revenue, and nearly every major industry in the region -- real estate, construction, finance, retailing and federal contracting -- is seeing falling sales and profits. Thousands of Washington area residents have lost their jobs due to layoffs and bankruptcies.
Board of Trade President William C. Harris, president of the greater Washington region of Crestar Bank, said the summit is aimed at pulling together what has been a fragmented approach to regional policy.
"By having these people there who can make a difference ... we can begin to figure out some ways to work together better," Harris said.
Harris said his organization does not have a list of specific options it wishes the meeting's participants to consider. Asked for examples of what the session might produce, he called attention to the board's push for a regional transportation authority.
The board also plans to use the occasion to unveil a new compilation of up-to-date economic statistics about the area that it has been developing for several months. A number of local and federal agencies publish indicators about the local economy such as the unemployment rate or the amount of retail sales. But they are difficult to find and have not been collected in one place.
Dixon spokesman Paul Costello said the mayor believes the regional approach is critical and that it has been successful elsewhere. "We are all in this together. The mayor is committed to work with all the regional governments," Costello said.
In Maryland, a spokesman for Schaefer said the governor welcomes the chance to meet with regional leaders to discuss mutual problems and solutions and will attend the summit. "There are dozens of matters that deserve the attention of both the Board of Trade and the District and the states of Maryland and Virginia," said Paul E. Schurick, the governor's press secretary.
"There's tremendous overlap in our economies and in our communities, and we welcome an opportunity to discuss these on a regional basis," he added. "There's always reason to think that regional approaches, especially those that include the private sector, can produce results."
Staff writers Linda Wheeler, Richard Tapscott and John F. Harris contributed to this report.