Attracting investment and creating new jobs in regional locations – including County Donegal – is a major priority for both myself and my Department. In February 2019 I launched a new Regional Enterprise for the North-West to support enterprise growth and job creation through collaborative initiatives.
The IDA has a significant role to play in helping us achieve that objective and the Agency’s staff have been working hard to increase regional investment. The relevant statistics reflect the emphasis that has been placed on this objective. There are now, for example, over 132,000 people employed across more than 680 IDA client firms outside of Dublin. 58% of total IDA client employment is located outside Dublin. The IDA has also recently reported a very strong first half of 2019 with 140 investments secured and 13,500 jobs approved so far this year.
Donegal, along with many other parts of the country, has benefitted from the IDA's strong regional focus. The County has experienced a 60% increase in FDI-driven employment since 2012, with job numbers in IDA client firms there increasing from 2,223 in 2012 to 3,564 at the end of last year. In 2018 alone, the total of IDA supported jobs in Donegal increased by 5%, with the County now home to 12 IDA companies including SITA, Optibelt and Pramerica.
With respect to site visits, Donegal hosted one visit over the first three months of this year. In 2018, the County hosted eight site visits, a fourfold increase compared to two site visits that took place in 2017 and the highest number in over a decade.
The Agency and its staff continue to do their utmost, including through site visits, to encourage overseas companies to locate in regional areas. The Board of the IDA also, in fact, recently held its June meeting in Letterkenny. I understand that during its two day visit to the County, the Board had excellent engagement with IDA client companies located in Donegal and held detailed discussions on increasing investment to both that County and the Border region in general.
While there have been no new name investments in County Donegal so far in 2019, it's important to emphasise that FDI performance is not accurately measured by the number of new-name investors, given Donegal’s strong performance over the last decade. Indeed, the IDA’s experience, over many decades, has shown that the growth of existing overseas firms here can produce as many jobs – if not more – than new name investors. It is also important to recognise the success of out investment in indigenous companies. With respect to Enterprise Ireland, (EI), that Agency's clients in Donegal employed 3,818 people in 2018, an increase of 12% over the previous year. In the period from 2016-2018, EI provided funding of €3.6 million to client companies in the county to support them to innovate, improve competitiveness and to diversify their global footprint.
With respect to 2019, the indications are that FDI in Donegal will continue to increase. For example, Abbott Laboratories announced plans last July to expand its workforce in the County with the creation of 500 new jobs. The IDA is focused on attracting further such high-quality investment to Donegal and it continues to promote the County to investors considering investing in Ireland for the first time.