Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 18:30 UK

Executives on NI investment trail


First minister Ian Paisley speaking on how important the conference is to Northern Ireland

By James Kerr
BBC Northern Ireland Business Editor

More than 100 executives from American companies are arriving in Northern Ireland for a major investment conference.

Invest Northern Ireland said nearly half the companies are visiting for the first time.

This is the fifth conference to persuade US firms to invest in NI, the first was after the 1994 IRA ceasefire. The conferences between then and now have had to counter varying degrees of political uncertainty.

Now with the political environment more settled, there is an unfortunate irony that there is now a growing cloud of economic gloom - particularly in the US.

However, 120 executives from 80 companies are coming.

US Dollars
Business executives from North America are to attend the conference

The 36-hour event includes a sales pitch from Invest Northern ireland, speeches to the delegates from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and new Taoiseach Brian Cowen, and a gala dinner.

Invest NI hopes this showcase event will persuade at least some of those firms to invest - but as is the nature of these things it could be three years or more before its success can be judged.

Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey said it was encouraging to see so many major businesses attending the conference.

"It is a wonderful showcasing opportunity for us," he said.

"Unfortunately, it is against the backdrop of a big collapse in the financial services sector earlier this year.

"But, nevertheless I think that it is beginning to recover and these people are very adaptable and we hope we can put Northern Ireland, at least, on their radar, whereas, otherwise, they would never have come here."

Meanwhile, US global business and financial news provider Bloomberg has opened a bureau in Belfast.

It is the company's third news centre in the UK after London and Edinburgh.

The company was founded by billionaire tycoon Michael Bloomberg. The New York mayor is one of those attending the Northern Ireland investment conference.

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