Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Firms lining up in fast lane as our Big Mo gathers pace

Momentum to remember: the roll-out of the Derry 2013 celebrations must now be capitalised upon
Momentum to remember: the roll-out of the Derry 2013 celebrations must now be capitalised upon

Things are looking up. While 2012 was the Olympic 'summer like no other' for London, 2013 should be equally important for people in Northern Ireland.

That was the message from Northern Ireland Office minister Mike Penning in the Commons last week.

The occasion was a short debate on the 400th anniversary of the foundation of County Londonderry, organised by Mark Field, Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster. He represents the money men in the Square Mile.

Northern Ireland's finest – Nigel Dodds, Mark Durkan, Gregory Campbell and David Simpson – were there to add their perspectives.

Gruff, geezerish Mr Penning, who would not sound out of place on a market stall, outlined the exciting events to be held here and the opportunities the focus on the province will provide.

"The G8 is coming to Northern Ireland and that was the Prime Minister's personal decision," he said.

"That is a huge fillip for the economy of Northern Ireland and it says to the rest of the world that Northern Ireland is open for business; it is a place where people can come and do business.

"Only three weeks ago, I met the seven biggest Japanese businessmen in the UK, who had come to Northern Ireland with their ambassador to see how they could invest."

Another event close to Mr Penning's heart is the Police and Fire Games. "They are the second-largest athletic event in the world, behind the Olympics."

The 400th anniversary, Mr Field observed, offers businesses in the province massive opportunities for inward investment.

Last month, the City of London hosted a day of activities, including an inward investment seminar, organised by Derry and Coleraine councils and Invest NI. It was followed by a glittering dinner at the Guildhall, hosted by the City of London Corporation.

What happens next is crucial if the fine words and pledges of support and investment are to be followed through.

As Mike Penning put it, with his trademark bluntness: "It is all well and good having a lovely reception, with lots of nice speeches. That is great: everybody can go out in their bling and everybody is happy. But then what? Let us make sure that there is truly momentum to take things forward."

This year, the Big Mo that should be on the minds of Invest NI, Northern Ireland's MPs and business people isn't Mo Farah, but momentum.

Time to put away the bling and start putting the province's history to good use.

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