Four city pension funds are to invest a total of $150 million in the newly formed Emerald Infrastructure Development Fund.
Details of the fund were unveiled at a press conference last Friday by New York City Comptroller, William Thompson at his offices in lower Manhattan.
Thompson was joined at the announcement by Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and heads of the four pension funds.
“The Trustees of the New York City Pension Funds and I are very excited and optimistic about the opportunities for potential strong returns from investments in the expanding Northern Ireland economy,” Comptroller Thompson said at the news conference.
“This announcement signals a great opportunity for investors such as the pension funds to invest in Northern Ireland’s bright future. We will continue to prudently assess other investment opportunities created by the dawn of this new era of peace in Northern Ireland,” he said.
Thompson described the move as “unprecedented” and the largest ever investment from the U.S. into Northern Ireland.
“The decision follows the pension funds’ longstanding, 20-year commitment to promoting peace and equality of opportunity for all in Northern Ireland. This is an historic next step for us.”
The four New York City Pension Funds involved in the investment are the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS), the Teacher Retirement System for the City of New York (TRS), the New York City Police Pension Fund, and the New York City Fire Department Fund.
Representatives of funds, Greg Floyd, president, City Employees Union Local 237; James Slevin, vice president, Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA); Larry Schimmel, Director of Pension Policy, New York City Office of the Public Advocate; Steve Cassidy, President, Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) were in hand for the Comptroller’s announcement.
“We expect that other public and private investment funds will increasingly make Northern Ireland a major focus of their investment decision making. While our number one priority is a strong return on our investment, we are encouraged that these projects will promote sustainable development and equality of opportunity, and will help to improve the economic condition of those who have been disadvantaged by patterns of historic exclusion and by nearly 30 years of civil strife,” Thompson said.
According to a statement from Thompson’s office, The $150 million investment will be managed by Emerald Development Managers LLC, and will primarily target projects in the alternative energy, waste management, property development and conventional energy sectors. Emerald has made a commitment to focus on new assets in order to create value and jobs in Northern Ireland.
More than half of Emerald’s total investments will be put towards projects that operate either exclusively in Northern Ireland or both parts of the island of Ireland. The remainder are expected to be “green investments in Northern America, predominantly in the renewable and clean energy, waste re-use, and environmental sectors.”
Emerald is the successor to Cohen & Company LLC, a private equity firm founded in 1994 that focused on project equity and early stage venture capital investments. Emerald will manage its investments from offices in New York City and Belfast.
“Recent advancements towards peace in Northern Ireland have created attractive opportunities for investment,” Thompson added. “Companies doing business there will have access to a diverse and highly-trained workforce, which is vital to ensuring a company’s long-term investment viability,” said Thompson.
The Emerald Fund is open to monies from other pension funds around the U.S. with reports suggesting that the eventual total could reach as much as $750 million.
Ian Paisley’s reaction to the announcement was in its own way unprecedented.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day when I’m speechless,” he said.
It was, he said, a great pleasure to be here at this moment. The investment would raise the living standards and quality of life for everyone in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland, Paisley said, was ready to create a business relationship with the U.S. that would be profitable for everyone concerned.
Martin McGuinness said that he saw the investment as another piece of history in the making and both New York and Bill Thompson had led the way.
The investment was not a one off but a continuation of 25 years of positive and proactive work by New York City and its comptrollers on behalf of fairness and equality of opportunity going all the way back to Comptroller Harrison “Jay” Goldin.
The investment, said McGuinness, was in the ordinary people of the U.S. investing in the future of the ordinary people of th3e north of Ireland.
He said he was convinced that the investment would continue to spur growth of a dynamic, equitable and sustainable economy in Northern Ireland.
New York City’s investment move comes just a few weeks before the major trade investment conference in Belfast that is already expected to draw dozens of U.S. companies and is certain to heighten interest in the three-day gathering.