News of a reprieve for the Continental service linking Belfast and the US is good news for all the people of this city, not just those who take that transatlantic flight. The news that Twitter has chosen Dublin this week for its European base — the 11th major digital company to locate major operations there — shows that Belfast is still behind the curve when it comes to attracting inward investment.
Certainly, there are some bright spots on the investment horizon but as yet the peace has not returned the scale of investment the Northern Ireland Executive had expected.
That’s a reflection on the fact that our corporation tax levels are around three times those south of the Border but it’s a commentary too on our inability to make the investment case strongly enough.
Ministers may blame the global recession but the reality is that US companies in particular are continuing to reap huge profits exactly because the bulk of their expansionary activity is taking place overseas.
The top US companies are sitting on reserves of two trillion dollars which they will invest abroad if a compelling case can be made.
The First and Deputy First Minister have successfully made that case in New York — bringing the New York Stock Exchange to Belfast — and in Hollywood – securing a second series of the HBO series Game of Thrones which creates 750 jobs each week it is in production here.
However, too often our efforts have fallen short.
The NI Executive promised this term would be marked by delivery. As unemployment rates climb, especially among our youth, it’s time to seek evidence of that delivery on the jobs front.
Later this week, the Belfast Media Group will gather a cadre of outstanding businesses at Stormont for the seventh annual Belfast Business Top 50 celebration. These are trailblazing entrepreneurs who have forged ahead one sale and one job at a time.
If Invest NI finds no takers for its offer to foreign investors, might we suggest it re-route its largesse to these companies who are day and daily building the Belfast economy.