Coming Soon: A DC Technology Council

Coming Soon: A DC Technology Council

By Richard McCaffery, Staff Writer

What's a hot technology industry without a technology council to back it up?

"A glaring omission," considering that both neighboring Maryland and Virginia have them, said Marie Johns, president and chief executive officer of Bell Atlantic's Ð Washington D.C. Inc.

So her Bell Atlantic unit and other Washington-based information technology and telecommunications companies are banding together to form a council aimed at attracting new high-tech firms to Washington and expanding the base of existing ones.

Called the DC Technology Council, it will also act as a voice for the local community and tackle issues such as the shortage of skilled IT workers and taxes on the Internet, said Johns.

"It's an important next step for the maturation of the IT industry in Washington," she said.

Though the council will be a private, not-for-profit organization, it's part of the District of Columbia's new economic resurgence plan unveiled Nov. 12 at an economic summit held at the World Bank in downtown Washington.

The summit and plan, known formally as the strategic economic development plan for Washington, D.C., were co-sponsored by the District of Columbia government, the Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority, the Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, Local Initiatives Support Corp., Fannie Mae and the World Bank.

Johns, who chairs the Information Technology/Telecommunications Industry Network, presented a report from her working group at the Nov. 12 session, where the heads of other cross-cutting policy working groups made similar reports on a range of topics, including business promotion, business climate, work force development and attracting and retaining residents.

Johns, who introduced the idea of a technology council to her working group several months ago, has met with officials from a number of companies in Washington to enlist support for her idea.

"We are certainly going to contact every one of the large-scale IT vendors around Washington to ask for their support," said Nat Abeles, director of electronic commerce systems at Bixler Inc., an Internet integration company in Washington.

"I think D.C. is the center of the Internet universe, and we are trying to put it on the map," said Abeles, who said he sits on a board that has been involved in the grass-roots effort to create the DC Tech Council.

One prominent District of Columbia government player likes what he sees. "We're the second-largest center of technology on the planet. [And] that's a significant advantage," Anthony Williams, the District of Columbia's mayor-elect, told the recent economic summit gathering.

Bell Atlantic already has contributed a $10,000 check to the council, Johns said. Other members include Symbiont Inc., Hi-Tech International Inc. and Dynamic Concepts Inc. Membership won't be restricted to information technology and telecommunications firms, Johns said. The council, which also plans to reach out to law firms, accounting firms, investment banks and other industries that work with the high-tech community, plans to hold its next meeting Dec. 1.

The next step is to establish articles of incorporation and file a charter, which should happen in a few weeks, said Johns. Election of officers will follow, and the council should be formally introduced in early 1999.

"It should bear fruit pretty quickly," she said.

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