Falls Church officials last week announced a new program to help find suitable sites in the city for businesses, a program the officials say will help dispel the city's image of being anti-business.

"We are attempting a very aggressive program to bring business into the city . . . " said David R. Cooper, the city's new director of business development. "It (business) takes the (tax) burden off the owner of the single-family home."

Under the plan, Cooper said, his office acts as a clearinghouse for developers. He said he works closely with the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors and has sent out more than 200 letters to real estate workers in the area explaining that he keeps a file about land available for development or empty office space in Falls Church. People interested in locating a new business in the Washington area can then come to him to try to find something in Falls Church that matches their needs, he said.

"At one time there was an image that Falls Church did not encourage business," Cooper said. But in its goals and objectives for this fiscal year, the City Council included a section on business development that stresses the importance of developing local businesses that are "compatible with the residential character of the city." To help fulfill this objective, the council funded Cooper's job, which began in June.

Much of the office space in the city is filled, Cooper said, but he is working to encourage development of more office space. He also is concentrating his work on small boutiques.

"We're looking for specialty shops . . . " he said, "businesses that would cluster among themselves and become their own draw" rather than depending on a large shopping center to bring in customers.

The "business climate" is good in Falls Church, Cooper said, especially since the city has the lowest property tax rate in the metropolitan area and is easily accessible by car and public transportation. The city of 10,000 has a daytime working force of 6,000 people, and is very competitive in land values, which average from $4 to $6 a square foot for premium areas, he said.