Belfast Telegraph

Ulster is hungry for business

Brown sees 'a future full of hope' as he addresses 100 top US investors

By Robin Morton and Jonathan McCambridge

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President George Bush and the new Taoiseach Brian Cowen today signalled that Northern Ireland is hungry for business as the investment conference got into full swing on the biggest day in the short life of our devolved government.

The British and Irish premiers, in their first joint engagement, were due to meet Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness at Stormont to review political progress and to reaffirm the commitment of the British and Irish governments to the peace process and prosperity.

As the investment conference kicked off at Blackstaff House in Belfast this morning US President Bush sent a message of support and pledged continued support from the US as the people of Northern Ireland took charge of their future.

In a broadcast message he declared: "We share with you the firm belief that even greater opportunities for cooperation lie ahead.

"One year ago Northern Ireland's elected leaders formed a unified government and made economic growth a top priority. Free market policies have been proven effective in economies across the world and Northern Ireland has made it clear you're open to foreign investment."

President Jose Manuel Barosso, the European Union President also delivered a message where he said he knew a page had been turned in Northern Ireland and that all eyes were on the future, with economic development now the key priority for all parties.

Writing exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph today, Prime Minister Brown said he believed that people here could look forward to a "future full of hope".

"I am determined to help local democracy work and ensure local politicians have all they need to deliver prosperity throughout Northern Ireland. The US:NI Investment Conference is proof that local politicians and business leaders share that determination and commitment to succeed," he said.

"As part of the UK, Northern Ireland offers potential investors an attractive package of financial incentives and, at the same time, it is part of an all-island economy. It is fertile ground for potential investors to grow their business," he added.

Mr Brown and Mr Cowen were due to speak at Stormont to more than 100 top US executives who are in the province for the major event which also includes a sales pitch from Invest Northern Ireland at the BBC in Belfast.

Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the Chief Executive of Independent News and Media, was also due to deliver a major speech at Stormont on investment opportunities in Northern Ireland.

The conference, which opened with a reception in Cultra, started with a series of major job announcements.

Today, it was revealed that American firm NYSE Euronext is to bring a further 75 jobs to Belfast as part of a £3m investment. The jobs will be created at its Belfast IT subsidiary Wombat, which it bought earlier this year for £100m. It will bring its total employment in the city to 200 by 2010.

And it was announced that the chief executive of Bombardier, Pierre Beaudoin, announced a major £70m investment in the provision of fuselages for the CRJ 1000 regional aircraft.

CyberSource, which handles billions of pounds worth of internet payments, also announced it will recruit 56 software development professionals at a graduate level for their new research and development centre in Belfast.

At the same time Bloomberg, the US-based global business and financial news provider, announced it was establishing a bureau in Belfast, reporting on the recovery of the Northern Ireland economy after decades of violence.

Also in Belfast today was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Belfast Telegraph