Heading west in search of work
Does anyone catch the energy, the light and the mobility which is New York better than Frank O’Hara?
I’m going to New York!
(what a lark! what a song!)
where the tough Rocky’s eaves
hit the sea. Where th’Acro-
polis is functional, the trains
that run and shout! the books
that have trousers and sleeves!
We don’t think so but suffice to say that Belfast is on its way to the Big Apple for the annual gathering of bighearted bridge-builders which is the New York-New Belfast conference. Our hosts at Fordham University will hang out their brightest colours for a caravan of community and civic leaders from all corners of Belfast who will make common cause to promote their native city as a great place in which to invest, visit and do business.
Rolling out the red carpet will be a who’s-who of Irish America led by our conference honorary chairs:
Rep Mike Fitzpatrick, Rep Mike Cusick, Baruch College distinguished lecturer Rob Walsh, investor John O’Donoghue, Moët Hennessy USA CEO Jim Clerkin, actress Geraldine Hughes, entrepreneur Liam Lynch, NY Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chain-IQ Global executive Suzanne Aquino, NI Bureau director Lorraine Turner, film-maker Marcus Robinson, Invest NI VP Andrea Haughian, Oscar-winner Terry George, attorney John J Reilly, Sheriff (rtd) Leo Maguire, Friends of Belfast founder John Connorton and restaurateur Francis Schott.
It’s through their efforts that our Ireland-US Top 50 Companies luncheon on Friday 5 June will feature the largest-ever number of firms with operations on both sides of the Atlantic. High-level representatives are flying in from Ireland, north and south, and from across the US to hear NY State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who controls $183bn in pension funds, speak of the ties that bind New York and Belfast. Among the companies attending with operations in Belfast will be Tyco, AON, BitNet, NaviNet, Walmart, United, Aer Lingus, Concentrix, Kainos, HBO, WhiteHat Security, Cayan, Shopkeep, Smith Dehn and SR Labs.
It’s an impressive list and testament to the miraculous changes which Belfast has witnessed over the past two decades. The aim of all those at this sixth annual New York-New Belfast conference will be to ensure that progress continues.
Just one other heads-up: On 1 July, I will invite 50 of our Belfast business leaders to join me in Stix & Stones Restaurant to try to raise £20,000 for four outstanding arts organisations. Pitching for funds will be Belfast Community Gospel Choir, youth arts group Wheelworks, Kabosh theatre company and Belfast Film Fest. Arts & Business and Arts Council NI are weighing in behind the initiative but making it a success will be visionary business leaders who recognise that a great city gets behind the artists who represent its very heart and soul. More to follow.