US pension fund investing £5m in Northern Ireland's small and medium firms
A New York pension fund is throwing $7m (£5m) worth of investment into Northern Ireland's small and medium-sized business.
The New York State Comptroller has announced the New York State Common Retirement Fund is investing the cash through the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Growth Fund.
The fund, which is managed by Kernel Capital, was established in 2013 by Invest NI to help boost and grow Northern Ireland's businesses.
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the investment, which is the first from the fund since 2009, would "provide a solid return" for the fund.
"Northern Ireland is on the move, as I saw first-hand during a recent visit," he added. "The peace process has opened doors and created economic opportunities for all communities. We're proud to be able to play a part in Northern Ireland's economic resurgence.
"This partnership will benefit our retirees, taxpayers and Northern Ireland for years to come."
The fund has previously invested in the region, including in 2005 and 2009.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: "This significant investment by the New York State Common Retirement Fund demonstrates a solid commitment to helping Northern Ireland's businesses grow, and it is a real endorsement of the strong entrepreneurial spirit which exists in Northern Ireland's business community.
"In the last couple of years, our economy has grown from strength to strength, and this added investment, combined with Kernel Capital's impressive track record of investing in high-growth companies, will continue to support Northern Ireland's thriving business community into the future."
Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness added: "This investment by a major international pension fund is a vote of confidence in the north of Ireland, in particular our economy, and demonstrates a strong commitment to help businesses here."
Niall Olden, managing partner of Kernel Capital, said the commitment demonstrated !an appreciation of the commercial opportunities created by innovative export focused Northern Ireland companies".
Also speaking about the latest US business investment, Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir said Thomas DiNapoli "has been a peerless ambassador for the work of building the hard-won peace" in Northern Ireland with "jobs and investment".
"His latest investment in the cream of our entrepreneurial talent will not only underpin the new Belfast we are creating but serve as a beacon to attract other investment funds," he added.
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell said the fund has "already made an impact through its equity investments in Northern Ireland companies, and this additional investment will give a boost to companies with high growth potential and will generate new opportunities for Northern Ireland's entrepreneurial and business community".