Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (1029)

Fiona O'Loughlin


1029. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she is taking to promote job creation in the mid-east region including County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34028/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The most recent CSO Labour Force Survey employment figures (Q1 2019) for the Mid-East region, which includes Co. Kildare, continue to show very good progress in employment levels.  From Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q1 2019, a total of 46,400 more people are in employment in the Mid East, and unemployment has more than halved in over the same period from 9.6 percent to 4.1 percent.

IDA Ireland continues to highlight the benefits of expanding or locating in all regions, including in Co. Kildare. There are over 8,838 people employed across 29 firms in IDA client companies located in Co. Kildare an increase of 386 between 2017 and 2018.

IDA Ireland is working hard to promote Co. Kildare to potential investors and regularly engages with key stakeholders on the ground in Co. Kildare, including with local authorities, public bodies, the education sector and companies.  

I am pleased to report that Enterprise Ireland (EI) supported companies employed 8,923 people in Co. Kildare in 2018.  Overall in the Mid-East, in 2018, 20,266 were employed in EI client companies. This is an increase of 2% compared to 2017.

The LEO in Co. Kildare is the ‘first-stop-shop’ for advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports for anyone intending to start or grow their own business in the area.  In 2018 there were 1,239 people employed in LEO client companies in Co. Kildare. LEO client companies in the county created 436 new jobs with a net increase of 285 jobs. The LEO will continue to support and promote micro-enterprises throughout the county.

While we have had great success through the Action Plan for Jobs in reducing unemployment, in the context of Brexit and other global challenges it is important that we move our focus beyond numbers of jobs created to quality and sustainable jobs. Future Jobs Ireland is our plan to meet these challenges. Launched on 10 March 2019, it includes ambitious targets and actions to drive this transformation of our economy.

Government remains committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10 and 15 per cent in each region by 2020 and to bring and maintain unemployment levels in each region to within one percentage point of the State average.

To that end, during February and March this year, I launched nine new Regional Enterprise Plans covering the period 2018 to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. These nine new Plans have been framed in the context of today’s new and emerging opportunities and challenges, including Brexit.

Shaped from the ‘bottom-up’, the principle behind the Regional Enterprise Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential. These stakeholders include: the Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’ and others.

I launched the new Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-East region, which covers counties Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, on the 7th February in Naas.  It is focused on four Strategic Objectives, specifically: developing the Screen Content Creation Sector; developing innovative co-working spaces; supporting the agri-food sector; and ensuring the availability of skills and talent. I am pleased to say that implementation has commenced in the Mid-East and all nine regions.

Each of the four Strategic Objectives includes actions in Co. Kildare as part of the Mid-East region, and the Local Authority in Co. Kildare will lead on Strategic Objective 2, that is the development of a network of innovative co-working spaces in the Mid-East Region.

The focus for Co. Kildare and the Mid-East over the period to 2020 under the Plan will be to maintain an emphasis on employment growth, aiming to out-perform the rate of growth achieved since 2015 to date and to ensure that sustainable, quality jobs are created and maintained the region. The collaborative strategic objectives and actions in this Plan, along with the core activities of the various Agencies and Bodies involved in supporting enterprise development over the coming two-year period will support this.

Finally, it is important to note that my Department, together with other Government Departments, has put several funding streams in place to support regional development, and I am pleased that the Mid-East has been successful in a number of these funding initiatives. These include my Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund; the Rural and Urban Regeneration and Development Funds under Project Ireland 2040; and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

Under my Department's €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), the Mid-East region has secured total funding of over €3.4 million to date under the two completed Calls.  One of these projects, the development of the Mid East Regional Innovation Think Space (MERITS) enterprise centre in Naas, involves an investment of just over €1.9 million from the REDF. In June of this year I launched a new €45 million (third Call) under the Fund.

Guided by this new Regional Enterprise Plan, Co. Kildare and the wider Mid-East region is well positioned to build on this success and to continue to see the benefits and results of collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region.