David Cameron jets in on a mission to entice world's big investors
At the end of a week marred by two murders and a raft of security alerts, a concerted push begins to lure multi-nationals to our shores
David Cameron flies into Belfast today to inject momentum into the global investment conference that aims to bring jobs and investment to Northern Ireland.
Big-hitters in the business world are gathering in Titanic Belfast to hear why they should bring their companies to the province, and the Prime Minister is leading the push to win them over.
During his visit, he will also outline the progress made on the economic pact between Westminster and Stormont signed by Mr Cameron with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness just before the G8 summit in June.
Mr Cameron is expected to reiterate Government support for the pact aimed at stimulating growth in infrastructure, the promotion of new businesses, reviving construction and boosting tourism. But he will also again stress that the promised economic aid measures are reliant on progress being made on the proposals for a shared future.
The investment conference will be kick-started by upbeat announcements, including Government approval for a £120m research and development project at Bombardier Aerospace. The combined forces of Invest NI and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills will provide up to £12m and £8m respectively towards this project, which according to Secretary of State Theresa Villiers could create over 230 jobs.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long MP said: "This is fantastic news and another vote of confidence in the highly skilled and dedicated workforce at the factory.
"This project will help boost the East Belfast and wider Northern Ireland economy. The jobs that will be created are exactly the kind of highly skilled, value-added jobs which Northern Ireland needs to sustain and grow if we are to rebalance our economy."
Symbolically, however, the more significant announcement could be approval for the Executive's request for additional borrowing of £15m over the next two years for the flagship shared education campus at Lisanelly in Omagh, to involve six schools from a range of traditions and sectors.
Mrs Villiers has announced a new Northern Ireland Bureau will open in Beijing, adding to the investment offices already operating in Washington and Brussels.
In a statement the Secretary of State said: "The success of the G8 summit has given us a solid platform on which to build Northern Ireland's reputation as an attractive destination for investment.
"The world saw the best of Northern Ireland, and the executive and government are committed to ensuring it continues to be seen as a great place to start and grow a business.
"This investment conference will showcase the brilliant business opportunities which exist in Northern Ireland.
"Our reputation for excellence in key sectors and our highly-educated workforce, excellent infrastructure, advanced telecoms and transport networks and competitive cost environment, mean Northern Ireland is now one of Europe's leading inward investment locations.
"However, further action is needed to address the long-term challenges Northern Ireland faces in building a shared society and rebalancing the economy.
"That was the purpose of the economic pact. On both counts – as we demonstrate in this update – progress has been made. But this is only a beginning and positive steps towards a prosperous and united community will continue."