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Belfast Lord Mayor is seeking US investment on trade mission

By Margaret Canning

Belfast will be hoping for its next Liberty IT as the city's Lord Mayor departs on a trade mission to Boston, Massachusetts.

Boston-based insurance firm Liberty Mutual has maintained its IT operations here since 1997.

Now Liberty IT has grown into a major business, employing around 340 people and with a pre-tax profit of £5.4m.

Other Boston firms with bases here include Rapid 7, a software security firm which set up a development centre employing around 75 people, and tech firm Cayan which has expanded rapidly since its launch in Belfast in 2013, and currently employs 134 full-time staff.

Liberty Mutual widened its reach into Northern Ireland in 2014 when it bought over independent broker Hughes Insurance.

It acquired Quinn Insurance in 2011.

Boston and Belfast formed a 'sister city' agreement in 2014 to foster economic, academic and cultural links.

During his visit to Boston, Lord Mayor Arder Carson will visit the US State Department and attend a business breakfast with Invest NI, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Boston Irish Business Association. Councillor Carson and the council's director of development Donal Durkin will discuss Belfast investment opportunities with the Boston Irish Business Association.

His trip comes as Sinn Fein party colleague and former Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir also visits the city, to lobby for a direct route with Belfast.

The sister city agreement led to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Friendship Four ice-hockey tournament being staged in Belfast for the first time last year.

Around 600 people from North America were at the event, with a visitor spend of around £273,000, the city council said.

The Lord Mayor said: "Bringing the NCAA Friendship Four games to Belfast was a major coup for the city.

"We want to continue this positive work now and I will be doing all I can while in Boston to expand our international relations and extend a welcome to new investment opportunities."

Invest NI maintains its US headquarters in an office in Boston, where it promotes Northern Ireland as a location for investment to tech companies. There are smaller offices run by the economic development agency in Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

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