Thursday, 27 June 2019

Questions (11)

Tom Neville


11. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the regional enterprise plans; the way in which the plans will benefit County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27100/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Business)

I want to ask the Minister about the status of the regional enterprise plans, the way in which the plans will benefit County Limerick and if she will make a statement on the matter.

I thank Deputy Neville for raising this issue about the mid-west region, which he frequently raises at the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation. I am interested in it too. During February and March, we launched nine new regional enterprise plans covering the period from 2018 to 2020, which build on the strong progress made on employment creation under the regional action plan for jobs for 2015 to 2017. These nine new plans take into account new and emerging opportunities and challenges including Brexit. I am pleased to say that implementation has commenced in all nine regions. Shaped from the bottom up by regional stakeholders, which is important to point out, and overseen by my Department, the new plans complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the top down and there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed and with the Government's Project Ireland 2040 and the Future Jobs Ireland initiatives.

We launched the regional enterprise plan for the mid-west region, which covers Limerick, Clare and Tipperary, on 20 February at the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation site at Lisheen, County Tipperary. The plan for the mid-west is focused on achieving impacts across five strategic objectives including developing the digital and innovation economy, progressing towards a low carbon economy, developing workforce skills, developing the capacity for economic growth and building a co-ordinated regional brand. Each of the five objectives involves a focus on County Limerick as part of the mid-west region. Initiatives to be pursued under the plan of significance for Limerick city and county include the development of an autonomous mobility testbed, the positioning of Limerick and the mid-west as a national centre for advanced manufacturing and the development of a sports technology cluster, building on the initial study by Limerick City and County Council.

The strategic objectives and actions in the mid-west plan are set out alongside, and add value to, the enterprise agencies’ activities, including Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, and the LEOs' core activities in County Limerick and the wider mid-west region, including the recently launched Enterprise Ireland regional strategy, Powering the Regions.

I thank the Minister of State. The key issue is creating regional clusters. People are thinking regionally, especially about the development of roads around Limerick, such as the southern ring road and the tunnel that brings one right out to Shannon. In my time in Limerick in recruiting people to American multinationals during the boom in the 2000s, Limerick was hurt by the fact that it was involved in the electronic subcontracting and manufacturing sector which took a hit between 2007 and 2009 and many of those jobs went east. It is prudent and innovative to move into those different clusters and not have a region be seen for just one specific cluster. Limerick has diversified more into financial services since then and into medical devices, as well as the clusters the Minister of State has described. I ask that it be made as easy as possible for companies to get through the bureaucracy to avail of this regional enterprise fund.

The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, launched another round of the regional enterprise development fund last Monday in Cavan. It is worth €45 million. As we did in the past, I encourage more companies in the mid-west to apply for that funding. We have seen the success of it with the Emerald Aero Group, when Clare companies and Limerick companies got together to pool their engineering skills so that they could bid with companies such as Bombardier and Boeing. The Deputy is right that clusters are important. We have seen the success of some in the medical technology sector recently. Edwards Lifesciences created nearly 600 jobs. Johnson & Johnson added to its company in Limerick, increasing its complement there by 100 jobs. That facility in Limerick is the biggest contact lens facility in the world. We should be proud of those achievements. In the Deputy's area, we have seen Croom Precision Medical increase the number of jobs. Much is happening in the mid-west region and it will continue into the future with the focus on innovation and ensuring that we upskill people.

To add to that, there are more jobs with companies such as DesignPro in Rathkeale and ABS Engineering in Castlelands Business Park, where the Minister of State visited us. There is no doubt that there has been a significant increase in employment in Limerick in the last years. In the Kilmallock region alone, there has been a 67% decrease in unemployment. In the Newcastle West region, there has been a 73% decrease in unemployment since 2011. There were approximately 5,000 Enterprise Ireland-supported jobs in Limerick in 2011 and there were nearly 10,000 in 2018. There were 6,642 IDA Ireland-supported jobs in Limerick in 2011 and there are now nearly 12,000. That is a substantial increase in employment. It is very welcome and long may it continue.

I agree with that. We also have to pay tribute to the universities and third level institutions which are working hand-in-hand not just with the multinational companies but with the indigenous companies. The Deputy mentioned ABS Engineering in his area. That has won many awards and new contracts in Mexico, India and other places. It is a sign that a company such as ABS can be a major player globally. I hope that we can ensure that more of those companies grow in the future and can be located in the regions. Our policy is to ensure that we grow the regions by 10% to 15% each year and we have reached our targets. Our target is 200,000 jobs and 135,000 of those jobs are outside the Dublin area. All the regions have experienced growth recently and they will continue to do so.