Building Belfast is our business
When the Belfast Homecoming opens on 7 October, expect the city to hang out its brightest colours for the returning sons and daughters of Ireland’s global family who are coming home to do the business.
For it’s business deals, investment decisions and commercial agreements which will be the benchmark against which the success of Belfast’s engagement with the Diaspora will ultimately be judged.
That’s why the Homecoming plenary conference on 9 October in Titanic Belfast is putting the emphasis on Belfast’s transformation into a technology and innovation powerhouse.
And there’s no shortage of success stories to showcase: Tyco’s global R&D facility, Deloitte’s Tech Academy, Intel’s groundbreaking operations and the global behemoths which have made Belfast their hub of operations: Citi, Concentrix, Liberty Mutual and AllState to name just a few.
In New York this week to meet Belfast ambassadors who are focusing on the opportunities to build businesses and make connections at the Homecoming, I was delighted to see so many diaspora leaders putting Belfast in their schedule.
Deirdre Woodbyrne of the Irish Network USA, Sean McNeill of the Irish Business Organisation, and first Chairman of Friends of Belfast John Connorton were complementing commitments to visit by Council Member Daniel Dromm (head of New York City’s Education Board which commands a $28bn budget) and Rep Mike Fitzpatrick who will be heading a 40-strong delegation from the New York Legislature.
Next stop on my agenda is Boston — capital of Irish America — where Mayor Marty Walsh has made his sister city agreement with Belfast a priority of his mayoral platform.
And of course it’s in Boston where we can reflect on one of the biggest wins of Belfast’s diaspora strategy: the plan to bring four college ice hockey teams to Belfast this November to play the first-ever official competition games outside of North America. The Belfast Giants forged that deal which will provide a timely shot-in-the-arm for Belfast’s hospitality sector and open up a new era of co-operation between Massachusetts universities and Belfast.
The bar has been set high but my message this week in New York and next week in Boston, Milwaukee and Washington DC is that we can raise it even further at this year’s Belfast Homecoming.