The U.S.-Northern Ireland Economic Conference 2010
United States Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland
OPERATOR: At this time we’d like to thank all participants for holding and let you know today’s call is being recorded. If you have any objections, you make disconnect at this time. Also, you’ll be on a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of today’s conference call. We’d now like to turn the call over to P.J. Crowley.
Go ahead, you may begin.
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining in. My comments will be very, very brief. The Secretary continued her significant engagement in and interest in furthering the broad United States’s goals towards Northern Ireland. This is something, obviously, that she has been invested in for some time as Secretary of State and before that as First Lady, and also recognizing the special contribution that President Clinton had in the success of the Northern Ireland peace process.
But economics is a vital element of our strategy to help Northern Ireland progress. Clearly, we see a stable government today. The Secretary had the opportunity during the course of the day to touch base with many of the key players, including Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness. But to run through the full day’s activity and to give you a strong sense of the reason behind today’s conference, I’ll turn it over to Declan Kelly, our Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland.
MR. KELLY: Thank you, P.J. and good afternoon or good evening, everybody. As P.J. said, today Secretary Clinton hosted the U.S.-Northern Ireland Economic Conference 2010. And the conference is yet another indication of Secretary Clinton’s commitment to building on the peace process in Northern Ireland and further underlines the U.S. Government’s support for the immense progress that’s been made in the region over the past year.
I had the privilege of organizing the conference on behalf of the Secretary, and it was attended by the First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson, the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and Minister Arlene Foster and Minister Reg Empey and Assemblyman Alban Maginness. It was also attended by Owen Paterson, the British Secretary of State to Northern Ireland and Peter Power, the Irish Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, both of whom had separate discussions in addition to the conference with Secretary Clinton. Also in attendance were the leaders of some of the largest international companies already operating in Northern Ireland, as well as companies with a very strong business interest in the region and other partners.
In total, we had over a trillion dollars worth of commercial value in the room. And in terms of the companies that had already invested in Northern Ireland, several of them are multi-billion dollar corporations like Allstate and the New York Stock Exchange, Liberty Mutual, Caterpillar, and so forth – Terex. And two companies made an investment announcement this morning at the beginning of the conference: One was Terex, which added a further 35 jobs in Northern Ireland, and a new investment was announced by Dow Chemical for 25 high-quality jobs in Northern Ireland as part of the conference.
We had two moderated sessions in the morning after the opening remarks. They were moderated by Maria Bartiromo of CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” And the conference itself was dedicated to promoting investment in Northern Ireland, but also more as important, trade between that region and the United States further underlining Secretary Clinton’s belief that economic investment is indeed the best means to build on the political progress that’s been made in the north of Ireland in recent weeks and months.
During the course of the day we, of course, talked about the challenges that corporations are facing during these difficult times – economically – and the need to find innovative solutions to expand their businesses. And we also talked about the benefits that Northern Ireland offers U.S. companies if they are in the market for export and related activity or if they are looking for a diversified local strategy whereby they have some employment in America and they also want to diversify outside of the United States.
Northern Ireland is a very good fit because of its location, obviously, its English-speaking workforce, the time zone, the high level of education, and the common ties with the United States. We and the United States Government, as Secretary Clinton has underlined several times, has committed to supporting a sustainable peace process through peace and prosperity, and we believe they go hand in hand. And this was confirmed by the Secretary’s appointment of the economic envoy, myself, to Northern Ireland by September. This is the only location in the world where the U.S. Government has an economic envoy position at this time. And we stated that if stability could be guaranteed in Northern Ireland, then a great opportunity would exist for the region to move forward quickly with initiatives in the area of economic investment.
Over the past year, we did, in fact, witness great progress in the region, including the historic Hillsborough agreement on the devolution of policing and justice. This was a key step towards realizing the promise of the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement in achieving a full and lasting peace. In addition, the city of Derry/Londonderry won the UK City of Culture 2013 designation – the first time that any city has been chosen. This has the potential to create 3,000 new jobs across the region, and I was very fortunate to work closely with this team and participated in the final pitch in Liverpool.
Finally, let me say that today’s conference is the latest in a series of initiatives we have undertaken as part of this mission. We have over a dozen different initiatives going on between our two locations under the auspices of my office in increasing trade and investment opportunities between the United States and Northern Ireland. During that period, over a thousand new jobs have been created in Northern Ireland, many of them by American companies interested in doing trade in Northern Ireland. And we look forward to continuing our work in the area and we’re very confident that this conference will yield significant results for both the U.S. and Northern Ireland and provide another platform for showing that peace and progress and prosperity do indeed go hand in hand.
And I’m happy to take any questions at this time.
OPERATOR: If you’d like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touch-tone phone, *1 for a question. Please record your name slowly and clearly. I’ll announce you by name and your affiliation. You may then introduce your question when your line is open. It’s *1 for question and we’ll give it a moment or two.
Our first question comes from Laura Marlowe. Laura Marlowe with Irish Times, go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Kelly. I’m wondering if – since I wasn’t able to attend the conference this afternoon if you could tell us, describe to us a little bit what it was like, both the moderated sessions, but also the – when it broke into the sort of different clusters. Any memorable anecdotes? What surprised or impressed you the most about the conference this afternoon?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think the first two roundtables, they were moderated by Ms. Bartiromo. They gave the opportunity to the existing companies to outline to the potential investors why they would recommend investing in Northern Ireland. And there was universal commitment on their part that they would work collaboratively with those companies to help them if they wish to make that decision. And they kept underpinning the same points which were the quality of the young people and the ease of access to and collaboration with government and the ability to come up with a framework and a structure on a case-by-case basis that would work for the particular company rather than having a rigid structure that doesn’t work for any company.
So I would say that the second session which involved the potential investors, many of them, I think, were far more forthcoming as a result of having the confidence of having heard what they heard beforehand from the other companies that had already invested. And so there were a number of those companies that expressed a strong interest and expressed strong commitment in pursuing further discussion and dialogue immediately after the conference. So that was very encouraging and I do think that will yield some positive results as we move forward here, and that was our intention in the first day.
Secondarily, in the breakout sessions they were far more intensive as you might imagine, because there were smaller groups broken out into separate subcategories. And we had chairs in those meetings made up of members of the U.S. and Northern Ireland working groups that I established after my appointment. And literally, they came up with – in some cases more than a dozen recommendations as to how to improve the competitive edge of Northern Ireland and things that were emerging in the world from a macroeconomic and microeconomic standpoint that might be lead indicators that Northern Ireland should be thinking about in the context of building its business case moving forward.
So there were some really useful ideas. I can tell you that the ministers were taking plenty of notes, as was I, and that we captured all the data to make sure that we can act upon it and follow up with everybody in the weeks and months that follow.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Anne Madden. Go ahead, Anne Madden with Belfast Telegraph.
MR. KELLY: Hello, Anne. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Sorry, it’s Belfast Telegraph, and I’m just inquiring about exactly how many companies were there today? I think originally it was six – about 12 companies?
MR. KELLY: Yes, we exceeded our targets in terms of the existing and the potential, and I believe at last count we had 16 existing investors and about 17 potential investors.
QUESTION: Sixteen existing –
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- investors and how many – sorry?
MR. KELLY: Seventeen.
QUESTION: And 17 potential?
MR. KELLY: Yes, at my last count. And –
MR. KELLY: And some companies brought a couple of individuals because they wanted to explore different aspects of the investment opportunities, so they approached it from different angles. And so we had a full room and we had a captive audience and the discussions are going to continue tonight at dinner. We’re also meeting tonight socially to go over further information and to allow the existing and potential investors to spend more time together.
QUESTION: Okay. And can I also ask another question?
MR. KELLY: Please.
QUESTION: And there was some – there was quite a bit of hype, you could say, around the job announcement today. And not to denigrate the 60 jobs that have been – to congratulate you on the 60 jobs that have come this way, but what potential do you really feel that there are for putting several more knots on that in the future?
MR. KELLY: Well, yeah, I think it’s a fair question. First of all, this has never been a numbers game for me because we measure success on many different levels, in many different ways. And if we were measuring success in that way, we would look to the fact that Northern Ireland has created over a thousand jobs in the last year from outside companies, many of them from America, which on a per capita basis is a much better performance than many other countries in the world. So it cuts both ways. Today’s announcements were merely coincidental in terms of timing. They happened to happen at the same time.
MR. KELLY: Dow Chemical Company coming into Northern Ireland for the first time is a major advancement for the region. This is one of the biggest companies in the world, and so I think what’s important there is that they have now dipped their toe in the water and they spoke at great – in great detail today about their reasoning for doing so and their commitment to staying involved and, hopefully, building.
Terex clearly employs over a thousand people, so this was an additional commitment on their part, which again, just coincided at the right time with the conference. But we clearly have expectations in the weeks and months ahead that this conference will yield further jobs. I won’t be drawn into speculating how many knots, as you’ve put it, but I’m confident we’ll have more jobs and I’m confident we’ll have them soon.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much and congratulations –
MR. KELLY: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- on a successful conference.
MR. KELLY: Thank you.
MODERATOR: If you’d like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone phone, *1 for questions. One moment for our next question.
Our next question comes from Jim Dee, Jim Dee with Belfast Telegraph. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Declan. You mentioned that in the breakout sessions that some people came up with more than a dozen recommendations that might improve Northern Ireland’s case. Can you specify what some of those were? And secondly, were there any impediments that people identified in terms of things that need to be improved before further investment could move forward?
MR. KELLY: I wouldn’t say there were any impediments that would be – that were outlined that would prevent further investment from going forward. I think there was a broad discussion and recognition of the changing environment in the world economy today, and particularly in the areas such as technology and global services. There were three sessions, I should have explained. One was technology and creative media, the other was global services and business services, and the third one was in financial services.
And I would say particularly in global services and in creative media and technology, there was a lot of discussion about what’s actually going on inside those industries right now and how quickly things are changing and what is actually happening, for example, in technology in Silicon Valley. We had several of the world’s leading companies from Silicon Valley in the room. And so the chairman of that session actually said it was like drinking from a fire hose because there were so many ideas coming forward. And it really pointed to the fact that there was so much going on in that sector at the moment that Northern Ireland needed to be cognizant of if it wanted to remain competitive, which, of course, it does and it will.
So I wouldn’t pinpoint any one particular area. It was a whole ream of different recommendations, all of which need to be digested and taken into account. And after this conference is over, we’ll sit down and think about those. And I would say on a positive note, it gives us more tools to play with, if you will, because we can now target other companies with some of this additional thought and thinking.
Several of the people in the room also volunteered to go forward and keep that thinking with us as part of our strategy moving forward so they can help us as we elaborate on our own plans and our own progression.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up question: Were there any questions about dissident republican violence?
MR. KELLY: Not one.
QUESTION: Not one question?
MR. KELLY: Not one question. However, let me say that we as a group of speakers did address that topic so that it was out in the open. Secretary Clinton referred to it herself, I referred to it, and First Minister – and deputy First Minister Robinson McGuinness referred to it. Let there be no doubt that their position on it was very clear, as is ours as an American government. But nobody in the room had any real interest in discussing it. To be honest, they were much more interested in the business case. Every single man and woman around the table said that the reason they would invest is because the business case and the economics make sense and if they don’t, they’ll go somewhere else. And I’ve been telling people this for months, and it was reiterated again today.
QUESTION: And just to – sorry to cut across here, but the tone of what you said, what the First Minister, deputy First Minister, and Secretary Clinton said about the dissonance, what did you guys say about the dissonance?
MR. KELLY: It’s not that we specifically referred to any particular dissident activity or anything of that nature. It’s just that, we as a group of people involved in this process on a daily basis don’t believe that we should give credence to the activities of these individuals in a way that makes them think they’re making a difference. And we refuse to do so, and we won’t.
There was over a trillion dollars worth of economic power in that room today, and not one person wanted to talk about security concerns or anything of that nature in Northern Ireland. And as I said, I keep telling people this. I talk to these companies every day so I know what I’m talking about. They’re not interested in that point. They get to it way down in the food chain, and it’s a consideration just like any other when they think about locating in a capital city in the world, that it’s no more or less important in that regard and it is certainly not an impediment to growth in Northern Ireland.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Laura Marlowe. Go ahead, Laura Marlowe with Irish Times.
QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Kelly. I’d like to ask you a sort of a personal question. You’ve been in this job for 13 months; is this the most ambitious thing that you’ve organized? And I wonder if you could say a few words about your personal philosophy about the job, in particular compared to the work you did in private sector finance.
MR. KELLY: Is this the most ambitious thing I’ve organized? I don’t know really how to answer that to be honest. I’ve had many different challenges in my career that I’ve had to face and deal with, so I wouldn’t say it’s the most ambitious thing I’ve had to organize, but it certainly was the most rewarding. And the reason why it was rewarding was because I could look down at the table and see people like Steve Luczo, who runs Seagate who flew from California to be at the table today for three or four hours; Ed Breen from Tyco, multibillion dollar company; Tom Wilson from Allstate, Chicago; Ted Kelly from Liberty Mutual, Boston. And I could go on and on and on. We had Caterpillar. We had so many other companies – Terex. All corners of America were represented, and these gentlemen and ladies came and they sat there for an entire day and they rolled up their sleeves and they gave us a powerhouse performance and lots of content. So it was humbling to see that they were willing to do that. So that was certainly one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done and ever seen and I’m very proud that we were able to pull it together.
As it relates to how it compares to my previous role and how my own role compares to that, I mean, it’s not comparable. That was running a private company and then being an officer of a private company; this is a public service. They’re working inside a government, so clearly, different skills are required. And I hope to try and continue to make a difference as long as I’m allowed.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: If you’d like to ask a question please press *1, *1 for questions. Our next question comes from Jim Dee. Jim Dee with Belfast Telegraph. Go ahead, your line is open.
QUESTION: Declan, when we spoke last week, you had said that you don’t expect immediate fallout from this sort of – or results from this, but that you will be contacting companies very shortly and following up intensively on trying to get people to commit. How do you see that process working out? What sort of time scale do you think you’ll actually eventually see results?
MR. KELLY: Well, as you might imagine, several of the people in the room were already in extended dialogue with them as are the people (inaudible) Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Government. So it’s not like we brought all these people into a room today and told them the story for the first time. There were some people, by the way, who were there hearing the story for the first time, but they were very few. Most had engaged with us in some shape or fashion and some of them had engaged in an extended matter. And so I am confident that there were a number of people in the room today who were engaged with those that will make positive decisions in favor of Northern Ireland in the near future.
I have no control over the timing except to say that I do not expect it to be a lengthy period of time before that happens, and I expect in a period of the next couple of months that you’ll see some considerable progress as a result of these efforts. And also, that several of the companies that were in the room today are considering Northern Ireland on a short list for investment purposes and it’s our job now to try and bring them over the line.
OPERATOR: *1 for questions. If you’d like to ask a question, press *1.
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I probably think we’ve done two or three rounds, so perhaps we – if there are no further questions we should wrap this up.
OPERATOR: We are showing no questions.
MR. CROWLEY: All right, very good. Declan, thanks for that excellent summary. And everybody, thanks for joining in and we will keep you posted periodically on further progress stemming from this economic conference. But thanks very much for participating and have a good day.
OPERATOR: This concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for attending. You may disconnect at any time.