Support for job creation and investment on a regional or local basis comes within the remit of the industrial development agency IDA Ireland, which is actively marketing individual areas as a location for additional foreign direct investment, and Enterprise Ireland, which is concentrating on the development of indigenous industries, with the 35 city and county enterprise boards, or CEBs, having primary responsibility for the regional promotion of indigenous industry in the micro-enterprise sector. Under the Industrial Development Acts, I may give general policy directives to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, but I am precluded from giving directives regarding individual undertakings or from giving preference to one area over others.
The development agencies have assured me that they are working to secure additional investment and jobs for the people of South Tipperary, including those living in Carrick-on-Suir.
While the IDA has not hosted any recent site visits by prospective investors to Carrick-on-Suir, there have been 11 such visits to the surrounding area in the past 12 months. The IDA is currently supporting two overseas companies in Carrick-on-Suir. While they are also promoting the town for additional overseas investment through their network of overseas offices, their experience of dealing with clients looking at Ireland is that many companies will only consider larger urban centres that have the scale, infrastructure and services capable of sustaining their investment. Ultimately, it is the investor who decides where to locate a project, including what areas to visit as potential locations.
IDA Ireland's response to this experience in the South Tipperary-Waterford area has been to concentrate the main focus of its marketing campaign on the gateway location of Waterford and the county town of Clonmel. It is doing so to maximise the number of overseas companies that can be attracted to the area and to avail of the knock-on benefits in other sectors such as supply, distribution and transport, thus creating further investment and employment opportunities for local people in the immediate vicinity and surrounding areas.
I am informed by the agency that it believes Carrick-on-Suir can benefit from that strategy, given its close proximity to both Waterford and Clonmel. The announcement in May 2004 by Guidant Corporation of a 1,000-person job expansion at its Clonmel plant should have considerable knock-on benefits in other investment and employment opportunities for people in the immediate vicinity and surrounding areas, including those living in Carrick-on-Suir.
IDA Ireland has a five-acre site in Carrick-on-Suir, and discussions are ongoing with South Tipperary County Council regarding the development of the site to help generate economic activity in the town.
Since its establishment in 1993, Tipperary South Riding County Enterprise Board has provided over €448,000 in financial aid to 40 projects in the Carrick-on-Suir area, which in turn has assisted in the creation of 67 full-time jobs. The board has run management development courses and targeted training courses on starting one's own business, web design, front office skills and IT training in Carrick-on-Suir town. Over 110 people have been directly trained on those programmes. While the majority of current training programmes are organised in Clonmel, a significant number of businesses availing of those programmes come from the Carrick-on-Suir area.
Enterprise Ireland is actively involved in addressing industrial development in Tipperary South through the county development board and through working closely with the other development agencies in the county, including IDA, FÁS, and the county enterprise board. In addition to direct finance, Enterprise Ireland has a range of service offerings to encourage high-technology, high-opportunity indigenous enterprise to get off the ground. Key support areas include project-building, mentoring, training, space, patent protection advice and business angels.
Specific State support to facilitate those who are unemployed to join or re-enter the labour force is provided by FÁS, the national training and employment authority. FÁS offers skills analysis, training and retraining programmes and a job placement service for those who are unemployed and is sponsoring a jobs club in the enterprise centre in Carrick-on-Suir. That last initiative is aimed at increasing the skills levels of those concerned. The agency also works closely with the Carrick-on-Suir RAPID steering committee. RAPID is a special designation project for areas of high deprivation aimed at establishing innovative actions that aid growth and social and economic inclusion in the designated areas.
In addition, I would like to point out that the numbers on the live register in the Carrick-on-Suir area fell from 971 in February 2004 to 910 in February 2005, which reflects a positive trend.
I welcome the initiative of the Tipperary South county manager last October in setting up a local working group to deal with unemployment issues in Carrick-on-Suir and to prepare a development plan for the area under the auspices of the county development board.