When a Northerner thinks ``Sunbelt,'' he is apt to be picturing the opening scenes of Dallas on TV's melodrama of the same name. He might also be remembering Dallas-Fort Worth's long-running reputation for wooing industry from elsewhere. Leading the regional marketing effort is the 20-city North Texas Commission. Its president, Worth Blake, concedes it is difficult to pinpoint whether the NTC advertising and public relations have had a direct bearing on relocation of blue-chip companies to the area, ``but we can see a direct trail from the sites chosen to the weeks and months of inquiries we answer and the information we've been disseminating.''
Among the companies that have made their way to Dallas since the North Texas Commissions was formed in 1972 are American Airlines, formerly of New York, Diamond Shamrock from Cleveland, and Associates Management from South Bend, Ind.
But the momentum of major corporate moves in the 1970s -- ``about one every quarter'' -- has leveled off today, Mr. Blake says. Part of the reason: Like the NTC, more and more regions of the country have organized to woo new business and to keep companies happy at home. Tampa, Fla., works with Orlando; Minneapolis with St. Paul; and Baltimore with Washington; and Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware make up the Pennjerdel group.
NTC chairman Peter W. Baldwin recently warned that ``other metropolitan areas such as Houston or North Carolina's Research Triangle Park are mounting expensive campaigns to attract business.'' Mr. Blake thinks the North Texas Commission is more cohesive than other marketing commissions, but he notes that the lure of the Sunbelt is no longer exclusive: ``New York couldn't keep American Airlines. But in Delaware, where a major manufacturer was dissatisfied with the tax laws, a special legislative session was called and the laws changed.''