LOUD AND CLEAR comes word from the world of local business that it wants to be heard more -- and understood -- on the issues confronting the governments of the region. That in itself is hardly new. Many Washingtonians would contend that the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade has made its impression on local affairs quite effectively throughout its 90-year existence. The difference lies in what business is up to in the region these days, and how the just-renamed Greater Washington Board of Trade sees its role.
For example, board President Ralph W. Frey, who also is vice president of the C&P Telephone Co., says the board is "110 percent behind self-determination for D.C." and will push for ratification of the congressional representation amendment. In fact, the board has supported this amendment for many years, but not for the reasons newcomers may think: members could portray their support for District seats in Congress as a "home rule" stand -- while vigorously opposing anything smacking of an elected local government in city hall.
In those days, the board had a cozy relationship with southern segregationist members of congressional committees who controlled things. But just as things changed on Capitol Hill, the views of downtown businessmen changed. Much of this was simply practical. Members recognized the need to stay in business in the District and the importance of a healthy downtown to the suburbs. Similarly, suburban government leaders concluded that on regional matters, it was more efficient to deal with a District government that could make decisions and join in agreements without having to turn every time to Congress for permission.
Mr. Frey says that the board is eager to improve its contact with, and reputation in, the city; also, the board will continue trying to attract more black and female members. He notes that the board's activities may be somewhat less concentrated on strictly District matters and include lobbying in Richmond and Annapolis for enactment of measures to help finance the Metro transportation system.
Obviously not all of the board of trade's new interests will coincide with everyone else's interests in the region. But the new sensitivity of business to local concerns can be a profitable venture for all parties.