US/NI business ties go far deeper than Game of Thrones – 27,000 Ulster jobs now depend on the Americans

As Minister for International Trade Policy, I’m currently travelling state-by-state through the US to forge closer trade and investment links with towns, cities and regions back home.

By Penny Mordaunt
Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 8:20 am
Penny Mordaunt
Penny Mordaunt

I’m speaking to everyone from entrepreneurs to officials about how we can use trade to drive growth, stimulate jobs and create economic prosperity on both sides of the pond.

I’m looking for opportunities to boost trade in key areas such as digital, services and agriculture, as well as discussing ways our world-class professionals, such as engineers or lawyers, can offer their services more easily in the US.

Starting in California, my journey takes in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma, with a pitstop in Belfast’s twin city, Nashville, to take in some of Tennessee’s famous country music.

Penny Mordaunt with Lori Odom, vie-president of International Business for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce

I’m championing Northern Ireland’s top-quality goods and services and making the case for why it’s a great destination for investors looking for the next big opportunity.

Northern Ireland’s trade and investment relationship with the US is already one of the strongest in the UK, with big American companies like Citi, Spirit AeroSystems and Allstate continuing to grow their presence in the area.

It’s a fact that Northern Ireland has seen the largest percentage increase in employment in US-owned UK businesses outside London and the South East, rising three-fold between 1997 and 2019.

It’s also the number one international investment location for US cybersecurity development projects.

Today, there are more than 800 US-owned businesses in Northern Ireland employing some 27,000 people.

Cognizant, a digital IT services company headquartered in New Jersey, recently announced plans to create another 2,500 jobs over the next four years, with new delivery centres in Leeds and Northern Ireland.

Digital transformation consulting firm, PA Consulting is also expanding its operations in the region with a new digital centre in Belfast.

US enthusiasm for Northern Ireland isn’t limited to investment, though.

Last year, America snapped up goods worth £967 million, or nearly 7% of NI’s total exports. Among the firms to have capitalised is Ulster Carpets, which has offices in America and sees the US market as pivotal to its international strategy.

Of course, it’s not just goods that Northern Ireland is successfully selling to the US.

Thanks to the global reach of shows like HBO’s smash hit Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland’s production landscape has enjoyed a huge boost.

Paper Owl Films, based in Hollywood, says the show raised the profile of the entire Northern Ireland creative industries sector for film and TV.

SixteenSouth is further testament to this; the Belfast-based BAFTA-winning animation studio with over 50 international accolades has attracted global stars to voice characters in its shows, including Tennessee’s very own Dolly Parton.

So, whilst transatlantic trade remains strong, there is always more we can do. That’s why we recently launched our ‘Made in the UK, Sold to the World’ plan to help businesses across Northern Ireland unleash their export potential and start selling their world-class products to the US and beyond.

No matter what stage of their export journey they are at, businesses can access government support via the Export Support Service, a one-stop shop for exporting advice.

As part of this, we’ve also launched a new UK Tradeshow Programme to help businesses across all parts of the UK attend more events and tradeshows to promote their products around the world.

With the expansion of DIT’s Export Academy to SMEs in Northern Ireland and the launch of Trade and Investment Northern Ireland, there’s never been a better time for businesses in Northern Ireland to start exporting. In fact, research shows that companies that export their goods are 21% more productive than those that don’t.

The International Trade Secretary was in Northern Ireland last month, hosting the Board of Trade in Derry/Londonderry and encouraging businesses right across the region to take advantage of the support on offer.

As we continue to break down more trade barriers, cut red tape and make it easier for UK companies to trade abroad, I can’t wait to see more businesses capitalising on the enormous opportunities that the US has to offer.

Penny Mordaunt is UK Minister for Trade Policy

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