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DiNapoli eyes greater investment in North

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New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaking at the New York/New Belfast conference.

By Irish Echo Staff

New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli — who controls more than $180 billion in pension fund for the state's public workers — has pledged to invest further funds in Belfast start-ups.

Delivering the keynote speech at the annual New York/New Belfast conference Top 50 Companies List Luncheon in Manhattan last Friday, DiNapoli said he was determined to allocate the second half of a $30 million fund he has earmarked for early-stage companies in the North.

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The first $15 million was placed with the Crescent Capital equity fund in March of last year.

As custodian of the MacBride Principles on Fair Employment in the north of Ireland, the comptroller has an oversight responsibility to ensure all companies in which the state invests offer equal opportunity to nationalists and unionists.

"I had the chance early in my tenure at the invitation, which was remarkable, of Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, to go to Northern Ireland," the comptroller told Irish Radio at the weekend.

"I got the sense that there was this concerted effort to put the past of the Troubles behind and work together in a collaborative fashion. That was 2008 and afterwards we had the global financial crisis but we had a commitment and wanted to do something.

“So we created a fund, the Emerging Europe Fund, and set aside at least $30 million for Northern Ireland because I wanted to make clear that if we were going to do investments we wanted to target the North because I saw great opportunities there."

Comptroller DiNapoli says that during his return visit to the North last fall he was impressed again by the vitality, entrepreneurship and talent of the workforce.

"While we certainly need to make money, we also like to have our money be put to work doing good things. To be part of this process of transformation in Northern Ireland, for all to benefit from and to really secure that stability, for us to be a part of that for me has great meaning.

“I am looking forward to having more capital deployed there and to get that other $15 million out the door. We've been talking to others in the North about how we might invest that money. And I am hoping that then we can put some more money there."

Comptroller DiNapoli, who was returned in statewide elections in New York last November and garnered the largest number of votes of any candidate for state office, stressed that his investments were aimed at keeping the peace process going.

"If the North can stay peaceful, and have a new era of prosperity, that will be the model for how we might resolve other conflicts. I see the North as a beacon of hope, and we all need to be involved in supporting that beacon of hope."

The biggest-ever delegation of political leaders from Belfast attended the conference held at Fordham University Lincoln Center campus and the turnout for the Top 50 Companies Luncheon, which annually forms part of the conference, was the largest to date.

Members of the Stormont Assembly from five different parties were on hand for the conference, held on Thursday evening June 4, and on Friday June 5.

They were joined by counterparts from New York City Hall, Albany and Capitol Hill who have been staunch supporters of both the peace process and evolving transatlantic business and investment partnerships.

The conference was opened on Thursday evening by Fordham President Fr. Joseph McShane and New York-based Belfast actress, Geraldine Hughes.

Among opening night highlights was a presentation on “Game of Thrones” which is filmed in Northern Ireland and is generating a mini-tourist industry of its own. Opening night also featured a preview of the $54 million new Irish Arts Center in New York.

On Friday, the focus switched to business. Backed by premier business partner KPMG, the conference closed with a finale reception at the Midtown residence of Irish Consul General Barbara Jones.