Belfast Briefing: Lord Mayor takes positive message to Silicon Valley
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir hopes the Belfast Tech Mission will secure investment and create jobs
RETRANSMITED CORRECTING NAME. NAME SHOULD READ Mairtin O Muilleoir. Newly elected Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoirmeets the press at Belfast City Hall. Belfast City Council elected an entrepreneur with a media empire in Belfast and New York as the new Lord Mayor. Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir, 53, took the post serving alongside Christopher Stalford of the DUP. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday June 3, 2013. See PA story ULSTER Mayor. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/ : “We are trying to do is get a foot in the door in the epicentre for tech investment.” Photograph: PA Wire
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is a man who knows the value of a good headline. As managing director of the Belfast Media Group and publisher of the Irish Echo in New York, he is also in a better position than most to appreciate the damaging effects a bad headline can have.
Unfortunately, Ó Muilleoir cannot always avoid damaging headlines, particularly in his current role as Belfast’s first citizen. The Belfast-born entrepreneur has, since June, temporarily parked his business ambitions to serve as lord mayor of the city for 12 months. He is determined that, during his year in office, Belfast is going to hit headlines for all the right reasons, not least as a place in which to do business and invest.
Later this week, Ó Muilleoir will lead the first ever Belfast Tech Mission to Silicon Valley. He hopes the initiative will showcase exactly what Belfast is capable of producing – new technology, products and services.
“We are going to Silicon Valley with 20 of Belfast’s most exciting new companies. Some of them are start-ups, some slightly more established, and we are going to be meeting with leading companies, investors and venture capitalists.
“What we are trying to do is get a foot in the door in the epicentre for tech investment – get the right introductions for these 20 companies, possibly secure new investment and help them move up to the next level,” Ó Muilleoir adds.
He is genuinely enthusiastic about what the trip might deliver and about Belfast’s ability to sell itself away from the suffocating pressure of negative headlines about flags and disputes.
“What we are going to do is show the positive side of doing business in Belfast. I hope that on the west coast of America people won’t be asking us questions about flags but that investors and companies will instead be asking us about the potential for our companies, the investment opportunities and what returns they can look forward to,” Ó Muilleoir says.
He is a big believer in networking – getting people talking at every level. Having seen at first hand how this has helped his own businesses, especially in the US, he wants to make sure that not only is the next generation of hi-tech businesses talking to the right people but that businesses across the city are communicating with each other about opportunities.
His theme for his year in office is “Building the Future Belfast – Together”. As part of this, he has introduced a “Future Belfast Fridays” programme where he goes out and spends time with businesses each week.
Ó Muilleoir believes that every company, every business in the city that creates a job and provides employment is actively contributing to the “peace dividend”.
‘We need investment’
“I want to help create jobs in Belfast. I really do believe in Belfast and its people but we need to create jobs and we need investment – we need to help our businesses get access to larger markets and we need to encourage our entrepreneurial talent. I firmly believe we will build peace in the city through jobs,” he says.
But Ó Muilleoir says there is “no back of the bus for anyone in Belfast, nationalist or unionist, minority or otherwise”. “Equality and mutual respect must be our watchwords if we truly believe in creating a shared city,” he warns.
He admits that finding what he describes as “common ground” will not always be easy. But one thing Ó Muilleoir firmly believes is that, regardless of their political persuasion, every one who has a stake in the city wants it to have a flourishing economy. That’s why he is a lord mayor with a very definite business agenda.