Belfast Telegraph

Riots 'won't hit US trade with Northern Ireland'

Top executive is optimistic as First Ministers visit LA

By Jim Dee

One of the most senior Irish-American business executives in the US has said that he doesn't believe this summer's riots in the province will put investors off Northern Ireland.

Irish Technology Leadership Council (ITLC) president John Hartnett also told the Belfast Telegraph he is optimistic that a five-day investment mission by Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers will yield results.

During their first visit to Los Angeles since 2009, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness will meet executives from major Hollywood movie studios such as Paramount and Warner Brothers, as well as representatives from the 'mini-majors' like Lionsgate and DreamWorks.

Tomorrow they will deliver their keynote address at a Hollywood gathering organised by the ITLC, which has worked to promote hi-tech ties between Ireland and America since 2007.

Limerick-born Mr Hartnett said he sees the visit as a platform where Northern Ireland will be showcased to the powerbrokers of Hollywood.

"And I would see that over the next couple of years you're going to see the momentum picking up, with some of the big companies coming in [to Northern Ireland]," he added.

Mr Hartnett, who has been based in California for 14 years, said that while the Republic has a track record of luring foreign investment "Northern Ireland is really the new kid on the block".

"I definitely see a more aggressive hunger to go out there and be successful," he said.

He also dismissed any suggestion that rioting in Belfast - although beamed across the world - would scare off potential investors.

"Companies like HBO, who have certainly had a phenomenal experience in Northern Ireland in the last few years, that experience outweighs what people will see or read in the media," insisted Mr Hartnett.

After leaving Los Angeles, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness will travel north for meetings in Silicon Valley, before heading on to Chicago on Thursday. They will wrap up the visit in New York, where they'll attend the opening of an office by Newry-based First Derivatives.

Profile

Based in Silicon Valley, John Hartnett's track record boasts some of the industry's leading companies such as Palm, Claris/Apple, AT&T, Digital Equipment, and Wang. He serves on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Northern Ireland Working Committee.

Belfast Telegraph

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