Prepare to Dial That Area Code

Beginning March 1, Northern Virginians will be required to include the area code when placing local calls.

The new dialing procedure will begin a month before a new area code, 571, is introduced to areas covered by 703, which includes Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and eastern Loudoun counties, as well as the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax.

Existing phone numbers in the 703 area will not change, but new telephone numbers could be assigned either 703 or 571. Local calling areas and the price of telephone service will not change as a result of the new area code.

The new area code will be the third addition in less than five years in Virginia, which used to be divided into 703 in the north and 804 in the south. In 1996, 540 was added for western Virginia, and 757 was added in the Tidewater area. Three more area codes will be introduced in the next two years, according to Bell Atlantic Corp.

A heavy demand for phone numbers and such telecommunications services as pagers and cellular phones is driving the need for telephone numbers.

For more information on area codes or dialing changes, call Bell Atlantic at 1-800-672-2628 or visit its World Wide Web site at www.bellatlantic.com/areacode.

Web Design Firm Lands Contract

Dulles-based start-up Gearboxx Interactive Studios announced last week that it has landed a one-year contract with Petmed-Express.com worth more than $100,000.

Gearboxx, a World Wide Web design company with 10 employees, was founded in April 1999 and has been profitable since September, according to company officials. The company plans to open a 10,000-square-foot multimedia production studio in Dulles during the second quarter of this year.

In addition to designing the PetmedExpress Web site, Gearboxx will provide electronic commerce services for the Florida company so customers can buy supplies online. The Web address for Gearboxx is www.gearboxx.com.

Finance, Advertising Seminars

The Loudoun County Small Business Development Center will host a finance seminar from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at Eastern Loudoun Regional Library on Whitfield Place in Cascades. Anthony Simone, a senior regional manager with Primerica Financial Services, will discuss personal finance, as well as small-business issues.

The center will hold an advertising seminar from 7:45 to 10:30 a.m. Feb. 8 at the Leesburg Government Center on West Market Street. The seminar will address such issues as where to place advertising, how to design ads and how to evaluate an advertising campaign.

To register for either seminar, call the center at 703-430-7222.

Please fax items for Thursday's business page to Sarah Schafer at 703-777-8437, or send them by mail to 305 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg, Va. 20175, or by e-mail to schafers@washpost.com.