By Susan Falvella Garraty
Washington, D.C. --- Secretary of State HIllary Rodham Clinton hosted a trade and investment conference for Northern Ireland Tuesday and immediately there were announcements of new employment opportunities across the six counties.
Dow Chemical will open a European supply chain design center employing 25 new workers in Belfast. The company initially started talking with Northern Ireland officials in June and they have already completed their first hire.
Dow Vice President Darrell Zavitz told the opening news conference, "In this day and age, we have to move fast as this is a big challenge for globalization. Access to talent was obvious to us immediately."
Also announcing new hires was Terex Corporation, which already has a thousand workers employed in Northern Ireland. They will add 35 new hires to their Dungannon, County Tyrone global services center.
"We find Northern Ireland a delightful place to work and grow and a great place to do business," said Terex CEO Ronald DeFeo. The company has been doing business in Northern Ireland for 11 years.
Deputy first Minister Martin McGuinness announced separately that the Fujitsu Corporation would be adding 50 new jobs in Derry. The company currently employs 150 employees near Timber Quay.
Queried about whether recent dissident activities were a deterrent to new business, unanimity was evident between First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness.
"It's brought the Executive together in a way it never has been before," said Robinson.
"Northern Ireland is still a much safer country to be living in than most other European countries and certainly much safer than most American cities," he added.
McGuinness said those groups looking to resurrect violence were engaged in a futile effort to drag Northern Ireland back to the past.
Secretary Clinton, too, addressed the "small" group who perpetrated such attacks as the car bombing in Derry earlier this month outside a shopping center.
"We can not permit a very few undermine the efforts of so many," Clinton said in answer to a question from the Echo just before a bilateral meeting with UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson.
The conference was different from previous larger scale U.S. sponsored investment conferences for the North.
Held in the historic and opulent Willard Hotel, where Mark Twain penned some of his novels, and the U.S. State Department, there were fewer than one hundred corporate participants.
Officials reported that the event was fully subscribed and said the smaller scale allowed more targeted talks for such industries as business services, creative services and the financial industry.
Companies participating in the event included Liberty Mutual, Tyco, and the New York Stock Exchange. One of the closed to media roundtable discussions was moderated by CNBC anchor, Maria Bartiromo. It was headlined on "Doing Business in Northern Ireland."
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin was to attend the conference, but "family commitments" precluded his attendance. Minister of State Peter Power attended instead.
Officially, the Republic's border counties were not a priority for this conference. That had some concerned. Fine Gael's spokesman on North/South Cooperation, Joe McHugh, T.D., wrote to Secretary Clinton and the North's ministers asking that Donegal and the rest of the border counties be included in the conference.
Massachusetts State House Representative, Eugene O'Flaherty and several colleagues wrote to Clinton to also ask that Donegal be included (Please see story, Page 2).
"Because of partition, there are sections of Donegal with a tremendously underserved community who need every advantage to try and increase employment opportunities," said O'Flaherty. Both he and McHugh are hopeful that the next conference will bring the border region in as a full participant.
Martin McGuinness said he too would like to see the border counties included.
"There is evidence that even in the most deprived areas young people are coming forward with great skills and now there are companies that want them," he said.
[PHOTO BY JOHN HARRISON: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shares a lighter moment with North leaders Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness at Tuesday's trade conference in the nation's capital.]