Thursday, 31 January 2019

Questions (10)

Billy Kelleher


10. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of regional IDA Ireland site visits and vacant properties nationwide by county on 31 December 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4568/19]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Business)

Could the Minister of State provide an update on the status of regional IDA Ireland site visits by county and vacant IDA Ireland properties nationwide on 31 December 2018?

I have a lot of information about this issue that I will probably have to send to the Deputy. However, I will do my best to reply. Regional development is a key priority for my Department. We understand the importance of achieving the best possible spread of employment and investment throughout the country. My Department and its agencies have been working hard towards that goal. Significant progress has already been made with 58% of all IDA Ireland client-supported employment now located outside of Dublin. This figure is the highest ever in the history of the agency. Our aim is to increase this percentage further in 2019.

The availability of marketable serviced land and buildings in advance of demand is a key element in IDA Ireland's ability to compete for mobile foreign direct investment, FDI. Not only does such a supply of properties help the agency to secure high-quality jobs, it also allows projects to begin at an earlier date by diminishing difficulties associated with land acquisition, planning and construction. It, therefore, remains an important means by which IDA Ireland can encourage and attract new investors to Ireland. IDA Ireland currently owns 29 properties. Of these, 14 are occupied by IDA Ireland clients. The remainder are available for prospective or existing investors. I will provide the Deputy with a table setting out the location of these various properties.

It appears that there is a continuation of a two-tier approach to regional job creation in respect of IDA Ireland site visits up to quarter 3 of 2018. The trend of over-concentration of IDA Ireland site visits on the eastern seaboard remains unchanged, with nearly one in every two taking place in the region. Out of a total number of 461 visits nationwide in the first nine months of 2018, 45% were to the capital city. During the same period, eight counties, including Longford, Cavan, Monaghan, Roscommon, Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny, received three visits or fewer. I was very concerned about the figures relating to County Wexford, particularly in light of the fact that Rosslare is located there. This is a concern. As the Minister of State will be aware, the two regions to which I refer continue to struggle in the context of job creation. What emphasis is the Department putting on prioritising the creation of jobs in the south east and the north west?

I emphasise that IDA Ireland does its utmost to encourage clients to locate in and expand to the regions. I previously made the point that the agency has a global perspective. As the Deputy probably knows, the same tax incentives and the same geographical infrastructure exist throughout the country. In the south east, particularly Waterford, Cork and Wexford, IDA Ireland has the same opportunities to meet client companies and advise them as to suitable locations to establish operations and about areas that have competent workforces, a good quality of life and the necessary infrastructure. Ultimately, however, the companies make the decisions and we cannot force or cajole them and say "Oh please don't locate in Dublin. Please come down to Waterford". As much as the Deputy and I would like to see companies setting up in Waterford and as other Deputies would like to see them in their regions, it must be accepted that IDA Ireland offers the same facilities all over the country to encourage FDI companies to set up in the regions. I reiterate that individual companies make the decision in that regard.

I accept that one can lead a horse to water but that one cannot make it drink. We all want to put the best foot forward when it comes to our regions. In terms of economic growth across the country, 45% of Irish GDP is generated in the capital according to the CSO. There is a large concentration of the population in the capital but, unfortunately, out of the total number of jobs created by IDA Ireland in all counties with cities, Waterford fared the worst, with only 471 jobs created there last year while 1,458 were created in Limerick, 1,971 in Galway and 3,177 in Cork. It is disappointing that three times the number of jobs created in Waterford, the constituency I represent, are being created in other cities. I know this is also disappointing for the Minister of State. I reiterate that Waterford, as well as the rest of the south east and the north west, can act as a release valve for the overheating in Dublin. In light of Brexit, I would like to see a renewed focus on Waterford and the rest of the south east and the north west.

I could not agree more. Looking at the statistics, we are achieving real results and deepening the spread of FDI companies across the regions. I can only go by IDA Ireland's 2018 results, which bear out that assessment. Last year, the agency delivered 113 regional investments, which is the equivalent of 56% of new jobs created outside Dublin. In the past four years, 44,000 FDI-driven jobs have been created outside Dublin. Again, I emphasise that all of us in the regions and the Government want to see things moving out of the capital. We want a regional spread that gives rise to the creation of good quality jobs. Not only do we want to see FDI companies doing so, we also want SMEs to set up in the regions.

The infrastructure and the same incentives are in place and I cannot overemphasise, having met the representatives of the IDA in the south east, that they do everything they can when they go to the USA, France or Israel to entice companies to come to particular regions. The following is important. Many companies make their own assessments before they even go to a region and make their decisions.

If I get co-operation, I will try to get the next two questions in.