Belfast Telegraph

Out to impress the big hitters...

It's time to pull out all the stops this week as Northern Ireland attempts to woo some of the top movers and shakers in the world of business in a first foreign investment conference since 2008

By David Elliott

It's time for Northern Ireland to shine. Come Thursday, we'll be laying out the red carpet for 120 potential inward investors from around the world in an effort to persuade them this is the place to spend their money at the first Investment Conference here since 2008.

We'll need to show them we have a wealth of highly-skilled, diligent workers, a top score when it comes to digital connectivity, fast and reliable transport connections, top class commercial real estate, a high standard of living and an amenable government.

They, and the same number again of current inward investors and some indigenous companies, will be given the hard sell on why they should follow in the footsteps of the likes of Citigroup, Allstate and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Because these big hitters, from chief executive or other 'C' levels, representing mulitnationals from across the world, have busy diaries, it's likely the event will be more of a whirlwind romance which organisers will be hoping grows into a long-term love affair.

Arriving on Thursday under their own steam (or certainly their own paid-for aeroplane tickets), they'll be treated to dinner at Hillsborough Castle and given a bit of a taster of what they can expect if they commit to investing here. Overseas investors who have already planted a flag in Northern Ireland will be interspersed with the newbies to share their experiences and to urge them to join the party.

Friday will see the hard sell start in earnest with presentations and workshops hopefully giving the delegates plenty of ammunition on their return to persuade their boards there is no point in looking at other potential European bases.

Who the delegates are is a closely guarded secret so as to avoid highlighting their intentions to rivals but company representatives from the US, France, China, Japan and Canada have all confirmed their attendance, along with Prime Minister David Cameron.

This investment conference was announced by him during last summer's G8 conference in Fermanagh and is believed to be the only G8 follow-up of its kind.

A previous conference in 2008 focused on the US and came at an inauspicious time in the global economic cycle.

Despite that, a number of US firms have set up base here and organisers Invest NI will be hoping this year's event has even greater success, coming as it does at what many believe is the start of an economic recovery.

Belfast Telegraph