For this purpose, the mid-west area was deemed to include north Kerry as well as Counties Clare, Limerick, Tipperary North Riding and west and south-west Offaly. In these circumstances, the Government considered it logical to extend the company's operational remit to include that part of north Kerry which is incorporated in the mid-west region for Structural Fund purposes.
Another reason for extending the company's remit in the area is that the Shannon Estuary as a whole is increasingly being recognised as a distinct area and one, moreover, with significant development potential. The estuary has long been acknowledged as an important natural asset to the region. It also has a number of inbuilt and infrastructural advantages from the industrial and tourism development points of view and the Government feel that a concentrated effort should now be made to develop and exploit them to the full.
Up to now, the Clare and Limerick portions of the estuary were, for industrial development purposes, in the mid-west region and were the responsibility of Shannon Development, while north Kerry was in the south-west region and was handled by IDA. This division obviously did not help in the development of a fully integrated strategy for the estuary. The new unified region will allow a more comprehensive approach to be taken towards the planning, promotion and development of the estuary. The estuary will now be promoted and marketed as one unit; economic investigations and other studies will be carried out in relation to it in its entirely and it can be developed in terms of its totality, without the disadvantages of internal demarcation.
In fact, the Government have already taken the first step in this respect by requesting SFADCo to carry out a comprehensive strategic study of the estuary. This study will take account of previous surveys and reports already produced on the area and will examine, in particular; (i) the natural and economic advantages of the estuary and its existing facilities; (ii) the potential for integrated development of the estuary, with careful regard to the protection and enhancement of the natural environment, for industry, energy and services, transport and distribution, including port, shipping, air transport and transshipment facilities, tourism and recreational facilities, and development of the natural resources of the region; (iii) the role of the existing installations in the estuary in such an integrated development; (iv) a draft outline plan for the optimum development of the estuary; and (v) an estimate of the development costs involved and possible sources of funding. We envisage that this study, when completed, will provide a sound and logical basis on which to plan for the development of the estuary in the years to come.
As the House is aware, the Government assigned from 1 January 1988, responsibility for tourism and industrial development, including medium and large scale industry, in the mid-west region to SFADCo. Prior to that, SFADCo were responsible only for the promotion and development of small industry in the region; the IDA had responsibility for medium and large industry. That decision resulted in a rationalisation of the agencies operating within the mid-west region and the creation, in SFADCo, of a single integrated regional development body. From the beginning, however, the company recognised that they were only one of many players on the development field within the region. For that reason they set out to create working partnerships with a number of other key groups, including other State agencies, local authorities and private sector interests. The company have been very pleased with the co-operation that has been forthcoming and I see, in this, the best guarantee and safeguard of the region's future progress.
The year 1988 was a particularly successful year for SFADCo, most notably in the difficult area of job creation. At the beginning of the year, the company agreed with my Department an ambitious job creation target of 2,000 new jobs in the mid-west region as their contribution to the national target of 20,000 new industrial jobs per year under the Programme for National Recovery. I am glad to say that that target was comfortably exceeded and that the actual outturn for the year was 2,817 new jobs. Perhaps of even greater significance is that a detailed survey of firms in the region showed a net gain in industrial employment of close to 1,000 last year.
In all a total of 25 new projects were approved for the region during 1988. These projects involve a capital investment of £10.7 million and the promoters envisage that 705 new jobs will be created over the next three to five years. In addition a total of 17 industrial expansions were approved and publicly announced during 1988. These expansions are expected to create 510 new jobs over the next three to five years and involve capital investment of £14 million.
Just two weeks ago I visited Shannon again to announce a number of significant new projects establishing in the free zone and I am quite happy that the good results of 1988 will be repeated again this year. The financial services sector, in particular, continues to be very buoyant and I am aware that a number of further projects in this sector have been approved and are now being processed through the licensing system.
In many respects, of course, SFADCo have always been to the forefront in developing initiatives in the industrial and tourism areas. Their promotion, for example, of small industry in the region in the past has been both effective and imaginative. Similarly their efforts on the tourism promotion front have proved highly successful. Their development of the "castle banquet" concept at Bunratty, Knappogue and Dunguaire and the folk park at Bunratty has done much to create a distinctive and readily-identifiable image for the Shannonside region both at home and abroad.
I have no doubt that the recent meeting between the Taoiseach and the Soviet President, Mr. Gorbachev, at Shannon and the visit by Madame Gorbachova to the folk park will do much to raise the profile of the area world-wide and will help to further our tourism promotion efforts both regionally and nationally.
Another concept which was pioneered in the region and has now been adopted elsewhere is the development of links between industry and the third level education, most notably in the National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick which, of course, the Government have now decided to upgrade to university status.
The Bill giving effect to this decision has now been passed by the Dáil and will shortly come before this House.
In addition, I had the pleasure myself last Christmas of laying the foundation stone for a new International Science Centre in Plassey Technological Park representing another step in the furthering of this two-way flow of information, training and interaction between education and industry. The building of the centre, which will provide facilities for firms to research process testing or the manufacture of prototypes and which will have direct access to the NIHE facilities, is an extremely important initiative.
The inclusion of north Kerry in Shannon Development's enlarged area of responsibility involves the addition of more than 100 companies employing almost 3,500 people to the region's existing established industry base. Shannon Development will focus considerable attention on the development of this base in north Kerry. This will involve the implementation in the country of the strategy successfully implemented in the mid-west region during 1988 and will entail intensive and pro-active efforts in dealing with existing companies.
Bringing north Kerry into the mid-west region also exploits the link between Limerick and Tralee, and enables this link to be used as a "lever" for development. The Limerick-Tralee route is a heavy tourist route and bringing it into one region allows the tourist potential along the route to be maximised. Tralee's Regional Technical College has a strong tradition of programmes and courses that assist economic development in the area. This is a tradition similar to that of the education-industry interfaces established by the university-designate in Limerick. The presence of both colleges in the one region will encourage interaction between the colleges and further develop this type of linkage. The food industry is well established in north Kerry, through companies such as the Kerry Co-op group. The existing mid-west region also has a strong food sector, particularly in Limerick and Tipperary and linking the two regions will, it is felt, encourage an integrated approach to the food sector.
Shannon Development will also continue to promote the enlarged Shannon region as a location for new indigenous and overseas manufacturing and international services investment.
Shannon Development's principal aim in north Kerry over the next three years will be to maximise employment in manufacturing and international services in the area. As in 1988 the company will, through their policy of integrated development, strive to ensure that there is a balanced spread of employment growth throughout the enlarged Shannon region.
I think it is fair to say that when this Bill came before the Dáil it received a broad measure of support across party lines as a logical and worthwhile measure. I would hope that it would also receive a welcome in this House. I am anxious that it be enacted as quickly as possible in order to put an end to any uncertainty or unease which may have arisen in north Kerry in the past few months as a result of the perceived delay in putting new arrangements in place for tourism promotion and industrial development.
The principal issues raised by Deputies in the debate on the Bill related to (i) the financing of SFADCo in the context of the transfer of responsibility for north Kerry and (ii) the working arrangements which would subsequently apply between SFADCo and the IDA.
In so far as financing is concerned assistance to industrial undertakings in the north Kerry area will be met out of moneys transferred from IDA to SFADCo under delegated authority and drawn down by SFADCo on a monthly basis as required. This is the arrangement which operates at present in respect of the existing mid-west region and section 3 of the present Bill provides for its extension to north Kerry. The only additional expenses therefore which SFADCo will incur in the area will be in relation to their promotion abroad and in this respect the company will have the benefit of extra revenue accruing from transfer of IDA property to them by way of factory rents, grazing fees etc.
In relation to working arrangements between the IDA and SFADCo I would like to say that detailed arrangements have already been drawn up for dealing with agency contact with overseas companies, multi-plant indigenous companies, other indigenous companies and financial services projects. Guidelines have also issued to IDA overseas offices in relation to site visits by potential promoters, the treatment of existing foreign-owned companies and the accommodation of SFADCo representatives in IDA offices abroad—four in the US and one in Germany at present. The objectives of the guidelines are to avoid duplication or unhealthy competition between the two agencies and to promote Ireland to the customer as a single industrial location.
SFADCo exercise their powers to assist industry in the mid-west region, exclusive of the Shannon free zone, under delegated authority from the IDA in line with national industrial development policy.
Specifically the new Bill provides for: (a) the amendment of section 2 of the 1970 Act in order to add north Kerry to the mid-west region to enable moneys to be expended by SFADCo to meet their running expenses in relation to industrial development there; and (b) the amendment of section 4 of the 1970 Act in order to add north Kerry to the mid-west region in respect of which the Industrial Development Authority may, at present, delegate their grant-giving powers to SFADCo.
I am advised that no legislative changes are required to extend the company's tourism remit to north Kerry. This will be done on an administrative basis.
I commend this Bill to the House.