North's tech sector still attracting interest stateside says US trade official

Mark O'Connell, chief executive of OCO Global pictured in Belfast with Maryland trade official Brian Castleberry and Adrian O’Connell from Tughans

A US trade official has said the north’s tech sector is continuing to attract attention on the other side of the Atlantic.

Brian Castleberry from the Maryland Department of Commerce was speaking at an event in the city hosted by OCO Global and Tughans Solicitors, as part of efforts to forge stronger links between Belfast and Baltimore.

Belfast’s tech sector has been bolstered in recent years through a series of US firms, attracted by the talent pool and lower costs compared with Silicon Valley. But the influx of firms and the subsequent demand for experienced staff has contributed to a skills shortage, in turn pushing salaries upwards.

Despite that, last month the Department of Commerce in Maryland and the Department for Economy in Northern Ireland signed a memorandum of understanding to build economic collaboration in the tech and cyber sectors.

The vice-president International Investment and Trade at Maryland Department of Commerce, Brian Castleberry said Belfast still remains an attractive alternative for many US companies.

"Belfast represents a substantial growth and investment opportunity for international companies in a global trade environment that is moving increasingly towards city to city trade links," he said.

“The offering of the city’s vibrant cyber cluster is supported by broader considerations which are important for international companies such as the availability of talent and access to ground-breaking technology.”

Speaking after the meeting, OCO Global chief executive, Mark O'Connell said: "Belfast is a city with considerable potential due to its high standard of education and density of young, skilled workers.

“The cyber-cluster that has been created here shares almost identical characteristics to Baltimore in relation to their tech offering and because of this, it proved a natural fit in creating a new trade relationship between the two cities.

“OCO has also worked with Invest NI since 2003, supporting their trade programmes and missions. With this insight and experience we are perfectly positioned to accelerate and facilitate the relationship between the two cities which will help to further drive innovation and investment in the NI economy."

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