A vote of confidence for embattled capital
33 new jobs announced as US firm confirms city as European hub
The protests across Northern Ireland over the last few weeks have failed to stop a US IT company from setting up its European headquarters here, creating 33 highly-paid jobs.
The images of rioting broadcast throughout the world had prompted fears that potential inward investors might shy away from the province but Ohio-based Oxford Consulting said it wouldn't be deterred from its plans to use its Belfast office to break into Europe.
The total salaries for the 33 jobs will amount to £1.4m and although rates of pay for different positions will vary, that works out at an average of over £42,000 a year.
"Everybody in a democratic society has a right to protest and certainly it (the protest) is inconvenient but it hasn't changed anything we're doing here in Northern Ireland," said Michelle Kerr, founder, chairwoman and president of Oxford Consulting Group.
"We have protests in the US just as you have here and I think they're a little bit sensationalised frankly.
"We've been here for over a week and we've had no problems, we've been here before and had no problems so it will not change anything that we're doing in Northern Ireland."
The company's decision to come to Northern Ireland has been helped by assistance from Invest NI of £330,000 but Ms Kerr said the quality of Northern Ireland's workforce swung the pendulum in our favour ahead of the other regions in Europe it had been considering.
Oxford Consulting supplies IT solutions and will be employing developers and consultants to service its US customers initially and also to make inroads into the European market. Ms Kerr said the level of technical expertise here combined with the mix of theory and practical third-level training in the sector was an attractive benefit.
"The talent pool here is quite deep," she said. "The way the universities train the folks and put them out into the field in their third year is really appealing to us. It means that when we do get talent from the universities, they already have some business experience that we can leverage.
"The thing that's wonderful about Northern Ireland is that not only do you have the technical skills, you also have good communication skills, both written and verbal and that means our employees here can integrate well with our US customers. They can be here developing but they can also travel to the US and have no problem interacting on site with clients."
Enterprise minister Arlene Foster helped welcome the firm to Northern Ireland at Invest NI's headquarters.
She said: "It's a very good indicator that we continue to focus on the job we have to do and that's to bring new investment into Northern Ireland to grow the economy and to sell it on a world stage."
Oxford Consulting Group is an information technology (IT) consulting firm and solutions provider that has developed, implemented and supported the technology portfolios of hundreds of companies. Established in 1998 and headquartered in Westerville, Ohio USA, it has a team of nearly 200 business and technology professionals.