Belfast Telegraph

CEOs lined up for NI investment talks

By Margaret Canning

Chief executives of US firms operating in Northern Ireland will ‘sell’ the province to other companies at an investment conference next month, the US economic envoy has said.

Declan Kelly said the event, organised by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would be more “focused” than the US:NI investment conference which took place in Belfast two years ago.

Chief executives or senior figures from 12 US companies in sectors ranging from financial services to health, and who are considering investing in Northern Ireland, will meet counterparts from other US firms already operating in the province.

Firms with premises in the province that will be represented include Seagate, All State, Liberty Mutual and the New York Stock Exchange.

The event will also be attended by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster and Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey.

Mr Kelly said: “President Obama has been invited so we’ll see what happens.”

The Secretary of State’s husband, former US President Bill Clinton, will be visiting Northern Ireland at the end of this month to show his support for the economic mission.

Mr Kelly said he had received “very strong responses and reaction from people we have asked to participate”.

Those chief executives who had already invested here “are coming to advocate to others to do the same”.

“They are taking the day off to urge others to do what they have done. Not only is that admirable but it’s also very significant.”

Mr Kelly said Northern |Ireland’s selling points ranged from its young population to the quality of its universities, and its infrastructure both above and below ground.

He said there was no single factor, such as tax, driving investment decisions but a combination of things.

“I think Northern Ireland undersells its technological capacity and its digital capacity and the amount of cable and fibre under the ground ...this is something which needs driven forward in a much more aggressive manner.”

He cited Project Kelvin, which enables high speed broadband links between Northern Ireland and the US.

The companies who are being enticed to invest in Northern Ireland are from all over the US.

Mr Kelly confirmed that some already had operations in the UK and Republic — but he added that none were “heavily invested” in the island of Ireland.

“They are good calibre and quality businesses, and the vast majority are Fortune 500 and drawn from sectors important to Invest NI — financial services, business services, technology and connected health.”

Mr Kelly said he was both matchmaker and salesman for US companies, some of whom he said were “very close” or “early stage prospects” for investing in Northern Ireland.

Where investment might be targeted was not his concern but Invest Northern Ireland’s, Mr Kelly said.

“I’m location agnostic, and it’s important that people understand that.”

Part of the event will be chaired by US TV business journalist Maria Bartiromo, who Mr Kelly said was a “household name”in the States through her appearances on CNBC — but was also well respected by company CEOs.

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