When asked where her company is based, Beverly Barker answers, "We're virtual."
Barker works as chief strategist for Beverly Barker and Associates, a small public relations firm, and she works entirely by computer from her home office in Reston. She once helped put together a news release for a circus -- in Puerto Rico. Barker said she has been part of the teleworking revolution since 1992, but she fears the rest of the business world has been slow to catch up.
"There are a lot of people interested in the concept," she said, "but nothing seems to click."
Barker joined more than 225 local business and government leaders at an economic forum at Lansdowne on Friday that was designed to speed the spread of the gospel of teleworking and to push for the technology infrastructure to make it happen.
In the future envisioned by conference participants, universal high-speed Internet access, known as broadband, would mean workers could live in the county's rapidly growing subdivisions but work anywhere in the world.
The idea would help the environment by taking vehicles off the roads, reduce reliance on gasoline and improve quality of life by giving workers more time with their families, said Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), one of the speakers at the forum.
"There is nothing magic about strapping yourself in a metal box and driving 35 to 40 miles and working in front of a computer when you could have in essence gone into the family room and done the same work," said Wolf, one of the region's leading proponents of teleworking.
The forum offered companies that have been making widespread use of the teleworking technology, including Loudoun Magazine and civil engineers Bowers & Associates, an opportunity to showcase their experiences.
It also served as a call to arms to ensure that broadband Internet access is available not just in pockets of the county.
"You want broadband everywhere," said Larry Rosenstrauch, the county's economic development director. He said many residents still must use slower dial-up Internet service even though they live in the heart of the Dulles technology corridor. "I like to say we're starving amidst plenty," he said.
Although broadband access -- either wireless or available using fiber optic cables -- is possible in some newer subdivisions, whole swaths of the county go without.
"You have the business community here that will get an appetite for this, and then the political leadership will follow," Rosenstrauch said. "I look around the room and see the right people."
William Mularie, chief executive of the Telework Consortium, a nonprofit, government-funded organization, said he hoped the conference would spur new energy and inspiration, leading to continuing discussions among enthused participants to help Loudoun County become a national model in using the technology. "There are a lot of movers and shakers here," he said.
Without a shift in work patterns that gets Loudoun commuters off the roads, Mularie warned, the county could find its energy sapped as new workers start to live farther and farther from Washington. "We're going to go down economically and will just become a doormat for commuting from West Virginia if we don't change," he said.
Government must take a leading role in ensuring the spread of broadband technology, Mularie said, likening the spread of the necessary infrastructure to the massive road and railroad building projects of the past.
"The market alone will not drive us where we need to be," he said.
Loudoun Supervisor D.M. "Mick" Staton Jr. (R-Sugarland Run), who said he is a strong advocate of the technology and uses it in his own work, agreed that government support can help, but he said it is private industry that must be out front.
"If we're waiting for government to do it all," he said, "we'll be waiting for a long time."