US business chiefs in North for investment conference

A US investment creating jobs in the North will be announced today just as more than 100 American corporate chiefs arrive for an investment conference.

A US investment creating jobs in the North will be announced today just as more than 100 American corporate chiefs arrive for an investment conference.

The inward investment is by a company new to the North and is being hailed as much for the quality of the jobs it will create as for their number.

It was being hoped by Invest Northern Ireland – the region’s business creation agency – and those organising the conference that the announcement would set the tone for the three-day event.

Around 120 senior executives – a considerable number of them CEOs – from around 80 corporations will be urged to consider Northern Ireland as a place to invest.

The quality of its graduates, and the workforce in general, will be used during the hard sell.

The US business bosses signed up for the visit despite the problems they have with the economic downturn at home and global credit crunch. In fact so many wanted to take part a cap had to be put on numbers.

Bosses of several US companies already operating successfully there will be used to promote the North by explaining their experience of doing business there.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and incoming Taoiseach Brian Cowen – in only his second day in office – will attend the conference tomorrow.

The US corporate bosses attending the key investment conference could be the catalyst for the economic transformation of the North, according to Northern Ireland First Minister the Rev Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who are spearheading the drive to attract more transatlantic investment to the region.

Welcoming the delegates to the North Mr Paisley said the conference was vitally important.

“In these difficult economic times it is a matter of great encouragement that we have exceeded our expectations in terms of numbers of leading business and political figures that have come to join us.”

He expressed delight at the involvement of Mr Brown and Mr Cowen, the endorsement of US President George Bush and EU Commission President Jose Barroso.

“Over the next three days we have the opportunity to sell Northern Ireland in an unprecedented format and I am confident that when we place our many attributes on the table we can make a case that these potential investors will find difficult to resist,” said Mr Paisley.

It was fitting the conference coincided with the first anniversary of the restoration of devolution, he said. “I believe the political progress over the last year can be an example as we seek to achieve an economic transformation which will benefit all our people.”

Mr McGuinness said the conference was the result of much work and planning and that the quality of the delegations attending “speaks volumes for the interest and goodwill that exists within the US and of the engagement that we have been involved in over the last year”.

He said over the past year he and Mr Paisley had found that from the White House to Wall Street every door had been opened to them.

That engagement had already reaped rewards with the recent announcement of a $150m (€97m) investment by the New York Comptroller William Thompson – who was attending along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg - in infrastructure.

“Our hope is that we can build on the good start that has been made and I believe that this conference will prove a major milestone in the ongoing transformation of our society.”

With many major corporate chief executives attending the gathering, Belfast’s airports were expected to be playing host to their largest ever array of private jets at any one time.

The attendance of so many leading businessmen put security staff at Stormont in a tizzy – Parliament Buildings, where delegates spend much of tomorrow and where they will meet Mr Brown and Mr Cowen, was given a full police search.

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