Belfast Telegraph

American mission a success: minister

By Robin Morton

Economy Minister Nigel Dodds said today that he was "very encouraged" by the progress being made in garnering support for next May's US-NI investment conference in Belfast.

The Minister was commenting after his visit last week to the United States and Canada, a trip which he said had helped to win support for the initiative.

Mr Dodds, whose investment mission took him to Washington, New York, Boston and Canada, said he had a "very productive" series of meetings with politicians and business leaders across North America.

"The four-day trip was extremely worthwhile and the support and assistance that we have already been offered is overwhelming," the Minister said.

"I am very confident that next February's inward investment visit and the May conference itself will be a great success, and I look forward to welcoming US business leaders in Belfast next year."

Mr Dodds said the dates for the next US inward investment trip had been confirmed at a meeting in Washington with President Bush's special envoy on Northern Ireland, Paula Dobriansky, as being February 25 and 26.

He said: "Such visits are extremely important in promoting and generating support for the US/NI Investment Conference.

"The visits enable us to showcase Northern Ireland as a region with greater stability, hope and optimism for the future, as well as demonstrate our hi-tech expertise, strong infrastructure and the great lifestyle we have on offer."

Susan Elliott, the US consul general, said that Northern Ireland needed to market its strengths to a targeted US business audience.

During last week's trip, Mr Dodds told the annual American Ireland Fund Gala in Boston that Northern Ireland had entered a new era and was "open for business".

He said that although Northern Ireland had secured more than $$6bn (£2.92bn) worth of foreign direct investment since 1996, there was no room for complacency.

"My Executive colleagues and I have made the development of the Northern Ireland economy our priority in the recent draft Programme for Government.

"We recognise that we must raise our game if we are to remain relevant and meet the current and future challenges."

He said the Executive had set targets to secure 6,500 high value new jobs from inward investment over the next three years.

Belfast Telegraph