Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (247, 248, 249)

James Bannon

Question:

247. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation following his visit to Longford town late last year if he will provide an update on his efforts to create new jobs in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15213/14]

View answer

James Bannon

Question:

248. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he raised the issue of Longford-Westmeath's high unemployment rate with IDA Ireland and, if so, the measures it plans to improve the employment situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15238/14]

View answer

James Bannon

Question:

249. Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will target assistance towards the small and medium enterprises sector in Longford-Westmeath for job creation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15248/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Jobs)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 to 249, inclusive, together.

There are 52 Enterprise Ireland client companies in Longford employing 1,632 people on a full time basis. There are 105 Enterprise Ireland client companies in Westmeath employing 2,610 people on a full time basis. Enterprise Ireland runs many initiatives to help sustain existing jobs and to create new jobs in the Midlands and provides funding to the Institute of Technology in Athlone to build the research capabilities in the Region. In addition, the Community Enterprise Centres, funded through Enterprise Ireland, are providing enterprise space to cater for micro enterprises throughout Longford. Enterprise Ireland approved over €0.56m in 2013 for companies in Longford and made payments of over €1.06m to companies in Longford during the same period. Enterprise Ireland approved over €1.21m in 2013 for companies in Westmeath and made payments of over €1.62m to companies in Westmeath during the same period.

Currently, the IDA positions the Midlands as having a strong cluster in Medical Technologies and Life Sciences (Abbott, Covidien, Integra, GeneMedix, Freund, Utah, KCI, AMS) and International Business Services (Teleflex, AXA, NPD Group and PPD). These international brands are an attraction for additional companies to potentially locate to the Midlands.

Recent examples of where the cluster benefits investment decisions is the announcement of Jazz Pharmaceuticals in Monksland, outside Athlone and American Medical Systems in Athlone, who are already seeking planning permission to expand after only two years. As well as the FDI sector, this cluster is supported by over 600 people employed in Medical Technologies related industries from the indigenous sector, in areas such as manufacturing to delivery of parts of the supply chain. The arrival of Jazz Pharmaceuticals to Monksland and the announcement of investment from Alexion Pharma combined with the existing presence of Alkermes, employing 400 staff identifies a new cluster in the Midlands in bio pharmaceuticals and this will be presented to potential new name companies in the market place.

In addition, the approval to build a 25,000 sq.ft. ATB in Athlone will provide an enhanced platform to attract FDI to the Midlands.

In 2013, the IDA Ireland scheme “Succeed in Ireland” with Ark Consulting announced the creation of 10 jobs, to be located in Longford.

As the Deputy will be aware, the CEB's will shortly be dissolved and established as Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) within Longford and Westmeath County Councils, as part of the reform of the model of supports for the micro-enterprise sector. The LEO will integrate the business support and enterprise development functions of the Council with an enhanced range of existing CEB functions, such as making it easier to obtain the full support of Revenue, Social Protection, Microfinance Ireland, the Credit Review Office, Skillnets and the Education and Training Boards. This reform will result in the provision of the best possible service to people who have a business idea.

The role of Longford and Westmeath County Enterprise Boards (CEBs) as part of the CEB/LEO network is to develop indigenous potential and stimulate economic activity at a local level primarily through the provision of financial and technical support for the development of small and micro-enterprises employing 10 or less people.

In 2013, Longford County Enterprise Board approved financial assistance totalling €352,000 in respect of 39 projects, with a further €63,000 allocated to 7 projects so far this year. In addition, last year the Board held 30 training courses, with over 330 participants. In 2014, the CEB/LEO will continue to provide a full range of training and mentoring supports, including a forthcoming Management Skills course, as well as its ongoing Management Development Programme and its Women in Business Network, etc.

Last year, Westmeath County Enterprise Board approved financial assistance totalling €596,213 in respect of 32 projects, over half (53%) of which were new businesses. In addition, the Board allocated €257,931 towards enterprise development activities, which comprised of business training courses, schools programmes, mentoring, exhibition assistance, website grants, exporting grants and business networking events. Westmeath CEB facilitated 980 people in business training in 2013.

In 2014, Westmeath CEB/LEO will be hosting a range of training courses and events, including a number of Start Your Own Business courses, information sessions on developing your business idea, current business topics, financial management, marketing courses, social networking, management development courses and business networking events in 2014.

Finally, I should point out that under action 117 of the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, my Department as well as Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have been tasked with the development of a framework for a Regional Enterprise Strategy to better integrate the efforts of enterprise agencies and the other regional stakeholders in building enterprise based on sustainable competitive advantage of the region. This framework for enterprise development, using the Midlands as a template is expected for delivery in the second quarter 2014.

Building and developing an ecosystem supportive of enterprise at a regional level is vital for economic growth and sustainable job creation. Regional development is central in Enterprise Ireland's role supporting the growth of Irish enterprise. With the advent of the new network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), Enterprise Ireland will now have a greater role to play in driving and nurturing entrepreneurship all the way from an originating idea at local level, to taking-on global markets.