Belfast Telegraph

Ministers showcase province at Games investment conference

By Tom Moseley

Ministers banged the drum for Northern Ireland at a huge pre-Olympic investment conference yesterday.

Ahead of today's opening ceremony, the Government tried to capitalise on the surge of big-name visitors to London, with a call for a business legacy to match the sporting one being promised.

Northern Ireland was represented at the 'global investment conference' by Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, minister of state Hugo Swire and Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

Their task was to mingle with the 200 world leaders, investors and business giants at the gathering in London and encourage them to bring their wads of cash over the Irish sea.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Paterson said: "It has been a key opportunity to raise Northern Ireland's profile with a global business audience, and to market the strengths of Northern Ireland as an outstanding investment destination and increase our ability to attract future investment."

A Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment spokeswoman said: "The minister was there to network with business leaders and promote Northern Ireland as a place to invest."

Thirty different countries were represented.

Among the speakers were IMF director-general Christine Lagarde, OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria, Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, GlaxoSmithKline chief Sir Andrew Witty, and ARM boss Warren East. The Government hopes more than £1bn worth of deals and projects can be generated over the summer on the back of the Games, with a further £13bn worth over the two or three years to come.

Ministers are keen to push the idea that the benefits from the Olympic Games will stretch beyond East London, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.

Spin-off contracts from the games have been heavily focused on London and the South East. Northern Ireland secured five 'core' contracts, worth £21m.

And a recent report by Olympics sponsor Visa predicted a £94.3m boost to the region.