Georgia companies should consider establishing facilities in Northern Ireland because of its abundance of educated and skilled labor, according to members of a high-ranking delegation that visited Atlanta last week.

      Organized by the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland, the tour included 11 North American cities and was the first official business promotional tour in the U.S. since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement between Protestant and Catholic political parties in April.

      Other reasons for investing there, including access to European markets, low corporate taxes, cash grants and low labor costs averaging 25% less than in the U.S., also were cited.  But the emphasis was placed on the quality of the country’s educational system and its leading universities.

      The delegation was headed by John McFall, a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with responsibilities for education, training and employment and health and social services, who underlined the country’s educational strengths during a press conference at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Buckhead.

       According to Mr. McFall, the proportion of students aged 16 and over who stay on for further education is among the highest in Europe, and about 27% of all 18-year-olds decide to continue their full-time education.

      Ian Craig, president of Nortel Broadband Networks based in Alpharetta, said during a meeting of local businesspeople held at the hotel in the evening that of the company’s 20 locations worldwide the Northern Ireland facility was at the top of the list, in large part because of the quality of the workforce.

      Locally based companies with a significant presence in Northern Ireland besides Nortel Broadban Networks include UniComp Inc. in Marietta, Shaw Industries in Dalton and Interface Inc. in LaGrange.

      For more information about the delegation’s visit or to learn more about investments in Northern Ireland, call the IDB office here at (404) 238-9345; fax, (404) 238-9347.