Mission to Manhattan
The new story of "fantastic" Belfast is being told in the US as delegates from some of Northern Ireland's leading growth sectors hope to score big in the Big Apple.
Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is leading delegates from the manufacturing, hospitality, tourism, digital and venture capital sectors through the New York Stock Exchange and other key financial institutions, with inward investment their messaeg.
The mission is the first outward business visit from Belfast to New York in 20 years and forms the latest bid to attract transatlantic inward investment to the city under the banner, Belfast in the Big Apple.
The troupe includes Philip Cassidy of Concentrix – the founder of gem, who later sold his business to the US company – Mandy Patrick of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, David Gavaghan of Titanic Quarter, Tom McCusker of Tennent's NI, and Bill and Petra Wolsey of The Beannchor Group.
Speaking last night from New York, following a visit to the city's New York Port Authority, the Lord Mayor said the collective mission was "not about the quick sale or a quick buck visit".
"I'm convinced that for Belfast to succeed it needs to be forward-looking.
"You can't market your city via social media or email, you have to be here to do that."
The Lord Mayor, who steps down from the role next week, added that the "inspiring band of business leaders" was "taking the first steps" towards investment and "setting out Belfast's stall".
Restating that his tenure as head of the city council was about "jobs and peace – and jobs cement the peace", Mr Ó Muilleoir added that as part of the trade mission, he was spreading the invitation to each and everyone they meet to come on a return visit to Belfast and to use the city as a base for their annual conferences.
"Our aim is to attract investment, partnerships and jobs by placing Belfast as the best European destination for American business," he said.
David Gavaghan, CEO of Titanic Quarter, also spoke from New York, where he was making an appeal on behalf of "fantastic" Belfast, as a winning place worthy of invest.
"We have a fantastic place here in Belfast and Titanic Quarter is part of the new story. We want to tell people to come over and if they feel comfortable here they will tell others and spread the message to invest here.
"We are seeing a lot of people here with a great affinity for Belfast and many of the senior guys we are meeting in Wall Street have strong connections to Northern Ireland so we are knocking on doors and telling our story and when you bring these things together you may have great potential for investment."
Mr Ó Muilleoir said the delegation's busy round of engagements would also include a meeting with Scott Stringer, the Comptroller of New York City, who has $120bn in his investment portfolio. They will also have dinner with Irish-American business chiefs in the prestigious boardroom of the New York Stock Exchange. The delegates met up with Belfast native Jim Clerkin, the president and chief executive of drinks company Moet Hennessy.
Other members of the party include Paul McMoran, managing director of the Crosslé Car Company, Michael Graham, director of corporate real estate at Titanic Quarter, Paul Graham, CEO and founder of Phlok.com.
Three venture capital companies – Lough Shore Investments, Kernel Capital and Crescent Capital – are also taking part in the mission.
During the visit, the Lord Mayor will also attend the fifth annual 'New York New Belfast' conference at Fordham University.
All of the delegates, including the Lord Mayor, have paid their own travel and accommodation expenses. Mr Ó Muilleoir will hand over the chains of office to Nichola Mallon of the SDLP, with the Alliance' s Maire Hendron as deputy lord mayor.