The US-NI Investment Conference, nearly a year in the planning, brought about 120 senior executives from U.S. corporations such as eBay, Pfizer, AOL, Goldman Sachs and Qualcom to the North, most of them for the first time.
The conference was actually the fifth such gathering since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement over two decades ago.
However, what organizers described as the new political dispensation and emerging confidence of the North as a viable business location was expected to see this latest gathering eclipse all its predecessors in terms of tangible economic results.
While some announcements, well planned in advance, were made during the conference, it is expected that even greater investment will flow into Northern Ireland over the next three years as a result of the event.
The conference was formally launched at a gala reception in the Transport Museum at Cultra, County Down, with welcomes from the First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Coinciding with the conference launch, Bombardier Aerospace unveiled details of a major new aircraft manufacturing operation in Belfast.
It will cover a range of technologically advanced aircraft development projects and will include the manufacture of components for the new CRJ1000 regional jet, including the fuselage and flight control surfaces.
U.S.-based Internet payments company CyberSource confirmed during the conference that it was establishing a research development center in Belfast where it plans to recruit 56 software development professionals.
The Bush administration was represented at the conference by the president’s special envoy, Ambassador Paula Dobriansky.
Northern Ireland, said Dobriansky, had an excellent quality of life and an infrastructure ideal for foreign investment.
“I hope that substantial and mutually beneficial business relationships will eventually emerge as a result,” she said.
At the opening of the conference, the North’s First Minister Ian Paisley thanked the U.S. for “staying with us in our hour of need” and said Northern Ireland was “about to reap a rich and bountiful economic harvest.”
Deputy First minister Martin McGuinness said the North was “now one of the most peaceful parts of Europe.”
As well as leading New York City and State politicians, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYC Comptroller William Thompson and State Comptroller Thomas Di Napoli, the conference was attended by new taoiseach Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.