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Job Creation

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 23 November 2017

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Questions (4)

Michael Lowry

Question:

4. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the efforts being made by State agencies, in particular the IDA, to attract jobs and investment to towns in County Tipperary; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49765/17]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Business)

I ask the Tánaiste, in her capacity as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the efforts being made by State agencies, notably the IDA, to attract jobs and investment to towns across County Tipperary which continue to suffer from the lack of economic progress and are increasingly left behind in the economic upturn.

Enterprise Ireland supports companies in urban and rural areas to start, innovate and remain competitive in international markets. At the centre of its strategy is the Build Scale, Expand Reach strategy for 2017-20. It works in many different ways to help that employment development. In 2016, for example, 5,352 people were employed in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in Tipperary, and in the same year Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in Tipperary created 290 jobs. This was a net gain of 189 when losses were taken into account. Enterprise Ireland has approximately 120 clients in Tipperary and supported client companies in Tipperary with an investment of €11.2 million in the period 2014-16. I understand as well that in Thurles, I think, the local council is involved in a new enterprise park. I do not have all the details of that but, again, whatever way the Government, Enterprise Ireland and local LEOs can work to support such development, we will facilitate that. As I said, Enterprise Ireland engages with established client companies in Tipperary through teams of sectoral focused development advisers using a company-led diagnostic approach, which is used to assess the client's needs. Then they can tailor the package to support them. This will continue. Enterprise Ireland has co-funded with local enterprise development groups 157 community enterprise centres across the country, totalling €64 million, and there is a community enterprise centre located in every county. The agency has also provided €2 million to support the role of 46 business development community enterprise centres. These employ 6,000 people across 1,200 companies and are key hubs of enterprise activity in many areas. In Tipperary, Enterprise Ireland has co-funded the establishment of six community enterprise centres.

The reality on the ground is that the economic difficulties being experienced by all of Ireland's inland towns, not just in Tipperary, are well documented. Towns such as Thurles, Roscrea, Templemore, Cashel, Nenagh, Tipperary town and Carrick-on-Suir have been left behind. They were once vibrant retail towns and they are now facing huge difficulties such as competition from suburban shopping centres, problems with parking and parking charges, the increased popularity of internet shopping, and high commercial rates and local charges, and then one must contend with the black economy. As a result, there has been a reduction in footfall, stemming largely from decreased consumer spending, so we have many empty premises that are contributing to the ghost town effect of many towns right around the country. We see padlocked gates, permanently shuttered shops, derelict sites - all of the physical and visible signs of the ongoing pain and unemployment happening across rural Ireland. The 2010 census showed an unemployment rate of 15% in Tipperary, as against the national rate of 12% at that time. We need initiatives to be taken to address this imbalance.

I take the points Deputy Lowry makes about some of the impact of the economic downturn in rural towns, and he has outlined it very starkly. The best way to begin to have that recovery that we need, and which is happening, as he says, is to ensure a regional focus when we attract jobs from overseas while also supporting local businesses. The kinds of projects I have described that the LEOs, for example, are supporting will be very important. In the Deputy's own area, Tipperary LEO was involved in five projects from the €5 million in funding under the competitive local enterprise office fund. Interesting things are happening, such as the south east artist and food initiative, the digital initiative that is under way and so on, that will lead to more employment and lead to those premises opening. There is a pilot programme that will offer carefully selected micro-enterprises with growth ambitions the opportunity to benefit from concentrated supports and advice. In addition, Enterprise Ireland ran an overseas Enterprise Ireland client itinerary visit to the Lisheen mines. Again, this is all part of trying to develop enterprise in the area and make sure jobs are created. We have the very important regional development fund of €60 million, and I will shortly - I hope before the end of the year - announce the results of the first €35 million of that investment.

In that regard, there is one other issue I would like the Minister's comments on. Her Department is feeding into the national planning framework that is currently out there for public discussion. The criteria and classification used in this plan mean that in Tipperary, for example, Clonmel is the only designated large town and, because of the criteria established, many towns are left out. The reality is that the funds in the plan will follow the designated towns. What will happen to the towns that are outside of the plan and left behind?

They will be at a huge disadvantage. The Government has a policy of shifting the balance in favour of the regions, but we will never get people to invest in any rural town unless there are incentives for them. This plan goes against Government policy in terms of directing investment towards regional geographical areas. The Department needs to look at this closely in terms of the disadvantage in which it will place many rural towns.

It is a subject for another question in terms of the planning framework. There has been a lot of consultation. It is a draft planning framework. There is certainly no question of placing areas at a disadvantage. I would say quite the opposite. It is about combining capital investment and a proper regional planning framework. The intention is to ensure we have balanced and inclusive development throughout the country. The development of Dublin is part of this. I imagine and expect that when we have this planning framework in place, we will see a more even spread of jobs and investment throughout the country. I believe the areas the Deputy has spoken about will also benefit because there is a better regional approach to planning, investment and development. It is bringing all of the different factors together, such as where there should be housing and where there can be development and investment.

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