Why is direct foreign investment so vital? Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness give their views
In two days' time more than 120 overseas delegates will arrive in Belfast to see what we have to offer as a place to do business.
With such a positive turnout expected it is clear that these potential international business investors are interested in learning exactly what this region has to offer. As senior executives they have the decision-making power to make things happen and it's important that they get the right impression.
Foreign direct investment can bring us so many benefits. The most obvious is new jobs, something that's on many people's minds as we climb out of recession. New jobs are essential to the growth of our economy and to raising the standard of living for those who live here.
There has been a lot of progress already and some recent reinvestment successes are bringing large numbers of new employment opportunities here. Allstate announced 650 new jobs back in May and Terumo in Larne announced 416 in June. These are very welcome and demonstrate that once investors arrive here, they are impressed enough to not only stay, but to expand.
In the last five years Invest Northern Ireland has supported investment projects that will promote nearly 12,400 new jobs, contributing more than £364m in salaries annually to the local economy. But reducing unemployment is just one of the benefits we can point to. Because what is often forgotten is that foreign investment can create additional opportunities within the local supply chain.
If you take the case of Bombardier, there are many local businesses benefiting from expansion by this major investor. Companies such as Denroy Plastics in Bangor, Maydown Precision Engineering in Derry/Londonderry, Moyola in Castledawson and JW Kane in Portadown are just a few that supply components to this world-class aerospace manufacturer.
So it's clear that without these and future foreign investments, many local businesses would miss out on important contracts that bring wealth, work and growth – contracts that not only impact the immediate local area, but also this entire region.
In addition, there are partnering and acquisition opportunities. Some of our local firms have attracted the interest of very significant international organisations. When it came here the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) was so impressed with local financial services firm Wombat that the company was subsequently acquired, enabling it to grow and become part of a much bigger operation.
Other global giants impressed by our local company credentials include VISA, which purchased Cybersource, IBM which purchased Q1 Labs and Kofax which acquired the business support company Singularity.
Not to be forgotten either is the contribution made by inward investment to the development of our skilled workforce. Through joint collaboration between government, industry and our universities and colleges we have introduced a range of specialist academies, conversion courses and apprenticeships and a number of our foreign investors have their own training programmes as well. All of this means that local businesses can also benefit from the increasingly better skilled 'ready to work' employment pool that these programmes produce.
So on Thursday, when the senior global executives arrive for their short, but information-packed visit, they can be assured of the warmest of welcomes. We're looking forward to working in partnership with all the business represented at the conference.