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Northern Ireland’s Leaders Meet with U.S. Investors

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr. | Staff Writer | 20 October 2010
Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness (AP Images)

Secretary Clinton meets with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, left, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness October 19.

Washington — New investment in Northern Ireland by U.S. corporations brings with it new jobs and opportunities for people, particularly young people, says Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton hosted a one-day U.S.–Northern Ireland Economic Conference in Washington October 19 to support the peace process and also to enhance and promote U.S. investment and the economic growth of Northern Ireland.

“For a time, when Americans, and particularly American businesses, heard the words ‘Northern Ireland,’ the first thing that came to mind was not investment opportunities,” Clinton told delegates from Northern Ireland and major U.S. companies. “It really froze the potential for development, despite the work ethic and the achievements of the people themselves.”

“Thanks to the courage and hard work on behalf of the people from every community and every part of Northern Ireland, now when people say ‘Northern Ireland,’ the words that come to mind are ‘reconciliation, hope and opportunity,’” Clinton added.

As the conference was opening in Washington, the Dow Chemical Company announced that it was establishing a Dow Design & Modify Supply Chain Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which is expected to create 25 skilled jobs. The official announcement also was made at the economic conference in Washington by Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

At the same time, the Terex Corporation announced plans to expand its existing operations in Northern Ireland by locating its European Global Business Services Center in Dungannon, a move that is expected to create 35 new skilled jobs.

Robinson told reporters that the economic conference will allow the government to sell Northern Ireland as an investment location to some of the most successful and best-known companies in the United States.

“Fostering economic growth in Northern Ireland will do more than provide much-needed paychecks. It will do more than open new markets,” Clinton told conference delegates. “A stronger economy in Northern Ireland will help secure a lasting peace.”

Peace in Northern Ireland is a “bedrock foreign policy priority for the United States,” Clinton said.

“Selecting Belfast as the location for the expansion of our global supply chain organization is a meaningful example of our commitment to strategic investments that support our long-term business objectives while also enabling us to have a positive impact on a region and community,” said Andrew Liveris, Dow chairman and chief executive officer.

Dow officials said Belfast was selected for the center because its location provides easy access to mainland Europe and it has a highly educated engineering graduate pool in the region and a strong communications and transportation infrastructure. Also cited was Northern Ireland’s collaborative approach to economic growth across government, academia and business.

Clinton told delegates that the economic conference was not an add-on to the peace process, but an essential element of building a better community. Clinton addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast in October 2009.

The conference was focused on promoting investment in Northern Ireland, but also on trade between that region and the United States, which underlines Secretary Clinton’s belief that economic investment is the best means to build on the political progress, says Declan Kelly, the U.S. economic envoy to Northern Ireland and organizer of the conference.

“Northern Ireland is a very good fit because of its location, obviously, its English-speaking work force, the time zone, the high level of education, and the common ties with the United States,” Kelly said during a post-conference press briefing. Kelly was appointed as the economic envoy September 11, 2009, by Clinton.

Kelly told reporters that the conference exceeded targets for investors. He said there were 16 existing major investors and approximately 17 potential investors interested in projects in Northern Ireland.

U.S. corporations sent teams to the conference to explore investment opportunities from more than one approach or even product line, Kelly said. If numbers are used as a measure of success, Kelly said, Northern Ireland has created more than a thousand new jobs in the last year from outside companies, many of them from the United States, “which on a per capita basis is a much better performance than many other countries in the world.”

It was coincidental that Dow Chemical announced it was coming to Northern Ireland, Kelly said, but it is a major advancement for the region because Dow is one of the largest companies in the world. Dow officials at the conference made a commitment to staying involved, he added.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov)