I have been advised by IDA Ireland that since the Square D closure announcement in January 2003, there have been nine site visits to Ballinasloe. Construction of a second advance technology building of approximately 27,000 sq. ft., on the IDA business and technology park, is expected to commence shortly. In addition, the IDA has reached an agreement with the ESB for the development of a 38 KV sub-station on its estate which will significantly enhance the electricity supply infrastructure to the site and the surrounding area. The IDA and other State agencies have actively participated in locally generated marketing initiatives and are involved in an ongoing series of meetings with members of Ballinasloe Town Council and Ballinasloe Chamber of Commerce.
Enterprise Ireland has approved a management development grant of €38,000 for the Ballinasloe area community development group towards the employment of a manager for the community owned enterprise centre in Ballinasloe and I understand that the position was advertised recently. At Loughrea, where I announced an expansion in March 2003 of the Signa facility to create an additional 220 jobs, recruitment is ongoing.
As regards Athlone, a comprehensive IDA property programme is in place on the Athlone business and technology park; two new technology buildings of approximately 25,000 sq. ft., and a further office unit of 14,000 sq. ft. which are complete are being marketed by IDA Ireland. Alienware Corporation's official opening of its European operations centre in Athlone on 17 September 2003 creating 80 jobs is a welcome development, as is the announcement on 13 October 2003 that Mapics Incorporated would establish a technical support and shared services centre in Athlone, creating 55 new jobs.
FÁS continues to help people to find suitable employment in Athlone and Ballinasloe and has enhanced the delivery of services to the unemployed in Ballinasloe through alliances with other groups in the Ballinasloe area, such as RAPID, the VEC and Ballinasloe Community Resources Ltd. The major decentralisation package announced in the budget includes 110 jobs to be relocated to Ballinasloe and 145 to Athlone. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in these areas.
The State development agencies are fully committed to ensuring an equal distribution of job creation opportunities and to encouraging the establishment of industry in the regions, in particular, the Border, midlands and west region, of which Athlone and Ballinasloe are an integral part. I assure the Deputy that the State development agencies, under the auspices of my Department, will continue to work closely together and with local interests in promoting Ballinasloe and Athlone for additional investment and job creation.