OK, here is the fix for MY particular system:
In the import dialog, under file handling, I tried selecting "Render Standard Previews" instead of "Use Embedded and Sidecar Previews" and it really sped up the program. I reference the files at their existing location.
When I used to select Develop on one picture it would take 20-30 seconds to bring it up, now it takes about 5 seconds. I deleted all the files in my library and I'm re-importing them.
I'm sure there is a way to get the previews rendered without re-importing but I hadn't done much work in Lightroom precisely because of the speed issue. So I think the bottleneck for me was Lightroom rendering previews in the background or something.
By the way, my PC is not very fast, it is an Athlon 3500 single core with 768 mb of RAM. I'm interested in trying it on my dual core laptop with 1 gig to see how much faster it is there.
I'd be interested if this helps anyone else.