Belfast is waking up to a new economic horizon, the man who leads the "city that never sleeps" declared yesterday.
Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, one of the major figures attending this week’s US-NI investment conference, revealed how impressed he was with Belfast’s rejuvenation as he helped launch the new Financial Services Centre in the city’s Titanic Quarter.
The first phase of the 150,000 sq ft centre in the fast developing Titanic Quarter is due to be completed later this year.
As Mr Bloomberg visited the area, it was announced a planning application for a 600,000 sq ft second phase has been made – to provide accommodation for new inward investment which it is hoped will flow from the US.
Mayor Bloomberg, taking time out from the investment conference, toured the site and expressed his pleasure at his first visit to Northern Ireland.
“It is everything I had looked forward to and expected,” he said. “I am delighted to be in Belfast for the first time. I am extremely impressed with what is happening here at Titanic Quarter.
“There is a great buzz and excitement about Belfast and it is great to see the investment being made in this city and to hear that the economy here is on the up and up.”
Last month, the Republic’s then Finance Minister – now Taoiseach – Brian Cowen and Northern Ireland Finance Minister Peter Robinson announced a new initiative that will allow financial firms in the South to establish subsidiaries in Northern Ireland to help cope with the deficit of skilled staff in the Republic and to help create more well paid jobs in the North.
The greatly extended Financial Services Centre will help to provide accommodation for those taking up the initiative.
Welcoming the Mayor to Titanic Quarter, chief executive Mike Smith said: “While Belfast may be small in world terms, Titanic Quarter’s 185 acres, however, do represent a development of international scale and our ambition is to turn this part of Belfast into somewhere that the international community wants to do business.”
Citi, Microsoft and GE Healthcare are already on the site’s Science Park and Mr Smith believes more will follow. “Titanic Quarter is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put Belfast back on the international map and the Financial Services Centre, which Mayor Bloomberg official launched today, will be at the forefront of that opportunity.”
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie told Mayor Bloomberg the Titanic Quarter was “a symbol of the new Northern Ireland”. “It holds the promise of delivering greater prosperity for our people and a unique investment opportunity for the US business sector,” she said.