The issue of job creation is a day to day operational issue for the enterprise development agencies of my Department and not one in which I have a direct function. However, I share the Deputy's concern at the job losses that have occurred in County Donegal.
IDA Ireland is the agency with statutory responsibility for the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland and its regions. Since 2000, IDA Ireland has assisted in the creation of 865 jobs in County Donegal. Unfortunately, during the period there has also been job losses, with net employment in overseas firms falling by 78 people.
IDA Ireland is also working to limit the immediate impact of the global downturn by working closely with foreign owned companies already located in Donegal. This involves concentrating more resources on helping to underpin the competitiveness of these companies by identifying new investment opportunities and encouraging them to move up the value chain.
A number of key developments for Donegal include the construction of a new IDA 80 acre business park in Letterkenny and the availability of new advanced buildings. This activity has resulted in an increased level of visits by potential investors and a number of companies are in active negotiation. Successful companies such as Prudential and PacifiCare continue to grow and both are actively recruiting at their Letterkenny locations. Letterkenny has been a priority area over recent years for the job creation agencies. Working together with the local authorities, FÁS and the institute of technology, a significant amount of work has been undertaken to improve its attractiveness for investors.
IDA Ireland is also working with Invest Northern Ireland, formerly the Industrial Development Board, to promote the north west region as a single location for inward investment. A joint website has been compiled to promote the region.
Enterprise Ireland works with companies in its portfolio to assist them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation in products and processes in order that they can compete on world markets. Enterprise Ireland's range of supports includes strategy development, production and operations, marketing, human resources development, finance and research and development. Companies in Donegal that are facing difficulties in their markets or needing to diversify their product range have the support of Enterprise Ireland through their development adviser. This support is provided through developing new market strategies, independent advice and access to Enterprise Ireland specialist advisers.
At the micro-enterprise level, Donegal County Enterprise Board is actively promoting job creation activities throughout the county, through the range of supports that it provides to small businesses. In 2003, Donegal County Enterprise Board approved a total of €346,767 to 17 projects with the potential to create 36 new jobs in the county. There was a net increase of 223 jobs in CEB assisted businesses in 2003. The board will continue to work to support new and existing businesses.
I am confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by the development agencies, together with the ongoing commitment of Government to regional development, will bear fruit in terms of additional sustainable investment and jobs for the people of the BMW region.