Libery Mutual invest in North


NORTHERN Ireland has secured a 124 job US investment worth £3.5 million. Liberty Mutual, the Boston based financial services group, is setting up a company to produce insurance software programmes for internal use in its 450 offices worldwide.

Liberty Mutual is a Fortune 500 company, and ranks 139th among, the 500 largest US corporations.

The company will initially recruit 35 graduates who will be trained in one of the company's offices in New Hampshire and will then build up to 124 employees over the next five years.

Northern Ireland's Industrial Development Board wooed the US giant. Unlike the IDA in the Republic, the IBA publicly declares the scale of its incentives. In this investment it contributed £837,000 in grant aid.

At the jobs announcement Liberty Mutual vice president Mr Dick Connell said there is a "better availability of highly skilled information technology graduates in Northern Ireland".

He described the Republic's software industry as "quite mature".

"The Republic is looking for graduates and is seeking to attract them from various locations including Northern Ireland. There are graduates in Northern Ireland who want to stay here." That was a deciding factor, he said.

Mr Connell, who will be in charge of the Belfast operation said the incentives from both North and South were very competitive. The company also looked at India, one of the world's most competitive software producers, but it lost out because of the time difference between Asia and the US.

Baroness Denton, the North's economy minister, said "we won because we're good". There were competitive government incentives she said but there was also state of the art digital technology, and high calibre people. She described Liberty Mutual, which has over $37 billion (£22.8 billion) in assets, as "clearly an A teams player".

Liberty Mutual, which employs 23,000 people around the world, does have offices in the South in one of its linked companies, providing occupational health and safety services.

The companys senior vice president, Mr Terry Conner, said that the Troubles in the North "have been one of the things we have had to contemplate and look at from a risk perspective. But we have done our homework."

The corporation looked at several US" companies which operate in Northern Ireland and decided that it was a "managable risk". Mr Conner added that although there was some slow down in economic growth in the North the economy was basically strong.