Northern Ireland is following the lead of the Republic of Ireland in trying to attract back-office processing work.

The newly elected leaders of the Northern Ireland Assembly-David Trimble, first minister, and Seamus Mallon, deputy first minister-are targeting U.S. financial institutions in particular.

Their pitch is timely. Banks are increasingly willing to shift data processing functions to lower-cost areas, and workers with technical skills are getting harder to find in the United States.

Northern Ireland is selling its proximity to continental Europe, a skilled and English-speaking work force, good transportation and telecommunications links, and attractive financial packages.

"American industrialists will feel at home," Mr. Trimble said.

To the south, the Republic of Ireland has succeeded in getting nearly 700 companies, including 80 banks, to send their processing to the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin. The center, opened in 1987, sits on 27 acres near the old Dublin docks, and has 1.2 million square feet of office space.

The Northern Ireland Assembly cannot offer incentives as attractive as its southern neighbor's. There, the tax rate on corporations is only 10%. But Mr. Trimble said Northern Ireland's offering is still "a good financial package for investors."

The package includes grants for training, research, and development. Though Northern Ireland charges the current standard U.K. corporate tax rate of 31%, there is no property tax for manufacturers.

"We want to ask people who haven't considered Northern Ireland to remove the blind spot and give Northern Ireland a rational chance," said Alan Gillespie, managing director at Goldman Sachs International in London and chairman of the Industrial Development Board of Northern Ireland. Mr. Gillespie, who is originally from Belfast, was executive director of Citicorp International for 10 years.

"It's the year of a fresh start and a new beginning for Northern Ireland," he added.

The Good Friday Peace Agreement, signed on April 10, has paved the way for growth in the six counties that are part of United Kingdom jurisdiction. "The Agreement is not a magic wand. It doesn't cure our problems overnight," said Mr. Trimble at a Wall Street breakfast Thursday organized by the law firm Thacher Proffitt & Wood and the Industrial Development Board of Northern Ireland.

"But we are confident that we are moving into a new future. Seeing an end to politically motivated violence is a reason for people to see the need to invest in Northern Ireland," he said.

Since 1990, 45 U.S. firms have invested more than $1 billion in Northern Ireland. Currently, U.S. companies account for 10% of the manufacturing firms there.

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