I welcome the Minister, Deputy Martin, to the House. It is the first time I have been present in the House to welcome him as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I wish him well in this tough job and hope he is proactive rather than reactionary. All politicians can make the mistake of being reactionary.
I draw the Minister's attention to the need to secure replacement jobs arising from the closure of the sugar factory in Carlow. The closure will have a great impact on the local economy, far greater than the Government realises. It is estimated that it was worth approximately €22 million to the local economy. The area will no longer benefit from this revenue.
There have been many job losses in Carlow recently. Keenan's of Borris and Braun have laid off staff. Fair Oaks Food of Bagenalstown laid off 40 staff this week and I believe an engineering firm in Carlow also laid off 40 employees. Many jobs were lost in the past few weeks and this is having a knock-on effect in the Carlow area.
There has been considerable growth in indigenous industry and the retail sector in Carlow in recent years. However, the danger is that we do not have a proper balance. We do not have the big multinationals we should have. A recent FÁS report indicated clearly that growth would be in the banking and pharmaceutical sectors but we have no industries in these sectors. I am sure the Minister will agree. Historically, Carlow has had a large manufacturing base. It is much larger than that of Kilkenny, for example, which has a tourism base. However, the reality is that the manufacturing industries around the country are under serious pressure and cannot compete globally. We had a very successful bicycle manufacturer in Carlow called Trek, of which the Minister may be aware. Although it had won major awards, its owners decided to close and relocate to east Germany to avail of cheaper labour and rent.
We have had much bad luck in Carlow lately and it was nauseating to see the sugar factory close even though it made a profit of €10 million last year. This is a conservative estimate. We need to secure a replacement industry. We have an industrial park on the outskirts of Carlow town and the IDA spent approximately €11 million on its acquisition and infrastructure. I acknowledge the considerable role Carlow County Council has played in this regard not only in terms of securing one broadband connection to the industrial park, but of putting in two broadband connections. It has put the necessary infrastructure in place, yet the park has been lying idle for two and a half years. It is imperative that we attract businesses into the park regardless of whether they are pharmaceutical or commercial banking organisations.
Carlow County Council, Carlow Chamber of Commerce and certain agencies in the county produced a document last week promoting the positive aspects of Carlow, of which we are all well aware. To be honest, I am blue in the face listening to all the positive attributes of Carlow. It has two third level colleges, a good supply of housing, fantastic recreational facilities and top class golf courses. It is quite near Dublin in terms of gaining access to ports and airports and it is also close to the port in Rosslare. The county has all the necessary assets. The N9 is to be upgraded and this will be a great boost to the infrastructure of the south-east region. I ask the Minister to ensure that Carlow gets its fair share of the cake and that the loss of jobs due to the closure of the sugar factory will be offset by the creation of new jobs in the area. This would obviously have a considerable knock-on effect. When creating one job we should think about the impact this will have on the creation of others. The manufacturing industry base in Carlow is very vulnerable and while the retail sector has grown significantly in recent years it will die away too if no industry or people earning high wages come into the town, which is under competitive pressure from Kilkenny, Newbridge and Naas. It is vital to have industry and attain the right balance in the town. Unfortunately, the unemployment figures there are growing. We want to stop that.