Regional differentials in economic development have many causes, reflecting different demographic, physical infrastructure, natural resources and competitive strengths. Enterprise policy can contribute to reducing regional differentials, but alone it cannot provide the solution to these many elements.
The enterprise development agencies under the aegis of my Department focus on nurturing and supporting enterprise from early stage start-up through the various stages of development. The agencies have regional structures in order to best understand and maximise regional opportunities. All companies eligible for support from the agencies have the same access to State services regardless of their location.
Different rates of grant aid are provided under EU state aid rules to reflect the greater level of enterprise support needed in some regions. In respect of IDA Ireland a key targets is that 50% of new foreign direct investment projects will be located outside of Dublin and Cork. Central to this strategy is to work with others in the regions to build on existing regional strengths.
This year to date, the IDA has announced the creation of over 5,000 new positions. The regional spread of these projects is encouraging, with Limerick, Galway, Cork, Dublin, Sligo, Dundalk, Kildare and Mayo all benefitting from job announcements.
The new positions announced by IDA alone will translate into a further estimated 1,500 jobs for the construction sector, as well as having positive knock-on effects for local services. Connect Ireland is a new initiative that will promote foreign investment with a broader regional spread.
Employment in indigenous companies supported by the agencies has a much more even regional spread and the aim of agency assistance is to achieve balanced regional growth. A central focus in our Action Plan for Jobs has been to develop policy instruments to help small and indigenous business which has a strong regional spread to establish and grow. New initiatives such as the First Time Exporters and Small Business Division, the Competitive Start Up Fund and my Department's access to finance initiatives are designed to support entrepreneurship, particularly in areas where support structures might be weaker, The reorganisation of local enterprise support and the appointment of managers to develop the potential of community enterprise centres will all help support entrepreneurship, including those who are now unemployed, across the country.