North's business conference ends today

A conference aimed at securing American investment in the North will today end with top US business executives exploring what opportunities exist for them.

After two days of intense lobbying from Stormont, Irish, British and US government representatives, some of the biggest names in US commerce will get a chance to look at possible investment opportunities.

Others will take in a round of golf in some of the North's top golf courses.

Among those touring potential investment sites will be New York City Comptroller William Thompson who announced last month $150m (€97m)in pension funds will be ploughed into infrastructural projects in both the North and the Republic through the specially created Emerald Fund.

Mr Thompson is due to visit the site of the former Crumlin Road Jail and adjoining Girdwood Barracks in north Belfast which has been earmarked for a major regeneration project.

He will also meet Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams during a visit to west Belfast.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown lent their support to the Northern Executive's efforts to revitalise the North's economy.

Congratulating Brian Cowen on his appointment this week as Taoiseach and the North's political leaders on delivering stable government, Mr Brown told a gala dinner at Hillsborough Castle: "British-Irish relationships have never been stronger. When we have Britain, Ireland and America working together, nothing can stop us."

Mr Cowen also paid tribute to the work of the Stormont Executive.

"There is a huge determination on the part of all of us to ensure the true economic potential of Northern Ireland is now unleashed," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

"Northern Ireland has an Executive team with a focus on the growth and revitalisation of Northern Ireland, and with the skills and drive to bring it about.

"This is a message the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have jointly delivered in your home country with their customary grace and flair over the last year.

"And I know it is a baton which will be taken up determinedly by Northern Ireland's incoming First Minister over the months and years ahead. Peter Robinson and I have already worked closely together as Ministers for Finance and I have no doubt that he will provide economic and political leadership of the highest calibre, alongside Martin McGuinness, at this critical time."

The conference was also addressed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and received video messages of support from US President George Bush and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

It has also seen a number of significant investment announcements from companies like Bombardier Aerospace, Bloomberg, the New York Stock Exchange owned software company Wombat and the software firm CyberSource.

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