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Cheers to mayor who loves two great cities

By Margaret Canning

We've seen a couple of IT-related investments this week, mainly relating to relatively new companies.

BRS Golf is creating around 30 jobs as it blossoms under the ownership of GolfNow and its parent company Comcast.

The story of BRS Golf is inspirational — brothers Brian and Rory Smith are keen golfers who developed software to make it easier to book tee-time, and grew their company until it caught the eye of Comcast, one of the world’s biggest companies.

And yesterday, Irish firm Version 1 announced 50 new jobs at its Belfast Oracle centre of excellence, paying an average salary of £57,000 — surely on the highest tier of pay available in IT in Northern Ireland.

We’ve also been given a reminder of one of the longest-established US-owned IT firms in Northern Ireland, Liberty IT.

For around 17 years it has been looking after the IT requirements of Boston-based Liberty Mutual. Serendipitously, Liberty Mutual is now a bigger player than ever since it bought Quinn Insurance, and most recently, Hughes Insurance in Newtownards.

And who better to pay a visit to Liberty IT’s Belfast offices but Boston’s Democrat Mayor Marty Walsh — because Liberty and the Massachusetts capital are synonymous.

Marty Walsh is of Irish parentage — and yesterday, like a presidential tour, Mr Walsh’s trip was being hailed as a “homecoming”.

A celebratory reception was held for him, where he was praised for his support of Liberty’s business expansion as a member of the Massachusetts legislature.

 In fact, so strong are the ties with the auld sod that Mr Walsh has named Belfast as a ‘sister city’ for his administration —which he vowed would be about more than culture and tourism.

“We want to use this programme to work toward a broader base of economic partnerships: a strategic alliance in the global economy that will bring growth and good jobs to both cities. We build that partnership with the support of businesses like Liberty Mutual and others who are investing in their workforce in both Boston and Belfast.”

William Hamilton, the head of Liberty IT in Northern Ireland, said it plans to continue to grow its operations and keep strengthening the cities’ ties.

Mayor Walsh will also be guest of owner at the Homecoming and Belfast One City Conference today in Titanic Belfast.

Liberty Mutual is as big a part of Boston’s cultural, economic and sporting capital as sitcom Cheers and the Red Sox.

We can’t compete with a TV product like Cheers, and our sporting teams aren’t quite as iconic as baseball heroes the Red Sox. But let’s hope Mayor Walsh can still find plenty to inspire him in Belfast.

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