Westmeath is part of IDA Ireland's Midlands Region along with Counties Longford, Laois, Offaly, and Roscommon. In this region IDA prioritises the marketing of the linked Gateway of Athlone/Tullamore/Mullingar.
I have been informed by IDA Ireland that the agency successfully secured 16 agency sponsored site visits by potential investors to the midlands region with 1 visiting Mullingar in 2013. To date this year, the region has received 7 site visits. These site visits were from new companies visiting the location for the first time and from senior executives of existing companies.
There are many complex factors influencing investor location decision-making such as the increasing preference of investors globally for cities of scale with 1 million plus population, significant challenges from lower cost locations in the UK and Eastern Europe and attractive regional aid. In the region as a whole, there are currently 43 IDA Ireland client companies employing 4,812 people. IDA Ireland has formed strong relationships with these companies and, having regard to the fact that 70% approximately of all FDI investments won by IDA Ireland is from the existing client base, the agency continues to work closely with them in order to ensure their long term sustainability and to encourage their growth, development and continuing re-investment in their sites. IDA Ireland works closely with third level educational institutions in the region so that the skill-sets necessary to attract high value added employment to the Region are being developed.
As part of the Action Plan for Jobs 2014, we are bringing a particular focus to regional job creation and are delivering a range of measures to support this goal. One such measure is that IDA Ireland will commence building new advanced manufacturing facilities in Waterford and Athlone and office space in Letterkenny. The Athlone building will provide an enhanced platform to attract FDI to the Midlands Region. The other IDA Parks in the Midlands, including Mullingar Business Park are essential infrastructure to provide for FDI clients and also for indigenous companies interested in developing their business in the Midlands Region. With the improved infrastructure that is now in place, a significant number of people commute within the Midlands Region. Indeed, a project win in one Midlands location has a positive impact on the other surrounding areas due to the close proximity of all main locations. The Agency has also explained that they have invested in specific marketing materials for the Midlands Region to support their marketing effort and launched the digital Connect and Invest site earlier this year. This is proactively used by IDA Ireland regional and overseas teams to market and promote the Midlands to overseas clients wishing to invest in the Region and covers all aspects such as the clusters of companies, infrastructure, talent, lifestyle and the overall business environment offered by the region. We must also remember that it is the investor in all cases who decides where to invest and an investment win for Ireland regardless of the location has to be seen as a plus for the country as a whole.