The name of the new president of Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology was reported incorrectly in yesterday's Metro section. He is Ronald E. Carrier.
Robert E. Carrier, contending that Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology has suffered from "a bad P.R. problem from the very beginning," said yesterday that repairing that public image will be his principal goal as CIT's new president.
"You can't sell a mission if you don't have the public on your side," said Carrier, who took a year's leave of absence as president of James Madison University two weeks ago to assume the center's top post. "I want people to see it close up, to take shots at it when called for."
To Carrier, poor public relations has been perhaps the most serious problem at the fledgling agency, created in 1984 with a $30.2 million grant from the Virginia General Assembly and Gov. Charles S. Robb to attract high-technology jobs to the Washington suburbs by merging the efforts of the state's business and educational institutions.
Located near Dulles International Airport on the Fairfax-Loudoun County line, the center has been criticized for conducting most of its activities in secret and for failing to articulate its goals.
Carrier said that during his first two weeks on the job he had formulated a clear vision of CIT's mission.
"We're a brokerage house, set up to bring together the intelligence and resources of business, industry and education," he said. The agency's primary role, he said, is to increase industrial productivity, expand the state's scientific base and promote economic and industrial development.
Carrier's prescription for change is an ambitious one. His guiding principle, he said, will be that CIT pursue "no hidden agenda."
In an interview, Carrier said he would waste little time in "getting the message of the CIT to the public." He outlined a speaking schedule that will take him across the state to meet with university officials, corporate leaders, public officials and the press.
His predecessor, Robert H. Pry, was widely criticized for failing to adequately promote the center and discuss its complex mission with those who could make it prosper. State legislators, for example, often complained about being unable to get information from the state-funded agency.
Carrier discussed two steps to provide public access to the agency and its officials. He said he had launched a review designed to recommend to Gov. Gerald L. Baliles which of the agency's records to make available under the state Freedom of Information Act, and he said he would hold regular press conferences.
Carrier said CIT's exclusion from certain provisions of the act created suspicions about its activities. Although he said he did not plan to deliver final recommendations to Baliles until the end of the year, Carrier said information about salaries and expenditures should be open to public scrutiny.
Carrier will be paid $100,000 for the one year he has agreed to run CIT and its 20-member staff. Pry, who earned the same amount, will remain for "two or three months" as a consultant, Carrier said.
Carrier predicted that he will be able to identify the agency's trouble spots and come up with solutions within 12 months. He added that part of his mission would be an assessment of what type of person is needed to guide the agency through the next several years.
"Now's the time to evaluate this to see if it's moving in the right direction, to see if we can accomplish what we want to accomplish as a state," Carrier said.
Like Baliles and former governor Robb, Carrier said that the agency generally was on the right track and that its difficulties similar to the "start-up problems with anything that is new. There's a lot of good things in place."
Carrier insisted that neither Baliles nor his chief of staff, David K. McCloud, had instructed him on what to do in the next 12 months. He said his only direction had come from the center's board, which consists of area business and educational leaders who voted to hire him.
McCloud has played a key role in the agency's activities since its inception. Toward the end of Robb's term in 1985, McCloud agreed to assume the post that Carrier now has, but changed his mind after Baliles asked him to stay on as chief of staff.
In describing his goals for the center, Carrier said he hoped to create jobs and improve the state's tax base. He said he hoped it would "bring Virginia into the 21st century so that it can compete [for industry and jobs] on an effective basis" with other states and even with foreign nations.
How can he bring about those goals where others have fallen short?
"I, better than anyone else, can assess this situation," Carrier said. "I know the educational community. I know the legislators. I know business leaders. I know management." And, Carrier added with emphasis, "I'm a good communicator. I'm a public person. I know how to deal with people."