Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Questions (11)

Peter Burke


11. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps the enterprise agencies are taking to support job creation in counties Westmeath and Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41007/19]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Business)

Unfortunately, Deputy Burke cannot be here. He has asked me to ask the Minister about the steps enterprise agencies are taking to support job creation in counties Westmeath and Longford and to make a statement on the matter. I have a similar question, No. 14, in respect of the position in County Sligo.

The Deputy has to look after his home turf.

My Department and its agencies are working towards ambitious targets to support job creation, while ensuring employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country, thus ensuring every region can achieve its potential. Counties Longford and Westmeath have experienced significant growth in both employment and investment in recent years, with 19,400 more people in employment in the midlands from Q1 in 2015 to Q2 in 2019.

In February this year I launched a new Midlands regional enterprise plan to 2020 to cover counties Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath. It builds on the success of the previous midlands action plan for jobs by setting out a number of strategic objectives aimed at realising the enterprise and jobs potential in the midlands region. The enterprise agencies within my remit play a key role in achieving these objectives, with a comprehensive range of supports provided for companies by Enterprise Ireland, the local enterprise offices and IDA Ireland.

In Deputy McLoughlin's region, as Minister, I have made regional enterprise development one of my key priorities. That is why I led the development of the regional enterprise plans, which are enterprise focused strategies that are the result of a refresh and refocus of the regional action plans for jobs to ensure their relevance and impact to 2020. The refreshed north-west regional enterprise plan to 2020 was launched on 25 February 2019.

In 2018 companies supported by Enterprise Ireland in Sligo employed 1,917 people, a 7% increase on the 2017 employment figure. Enterprise Ireland is actively working with companies in Sligo with global ambitions to drive competitiveness, innovation and market diversification. In 2018 there were record growth levels in employment in every region which saw 61% of employment growth occurring outside Dublin, bringing total employment in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in the regions to 64%, another record high.

Enterprise Ireland also works with the institutes of technology, ITs, to support entrepreneurship in the regions. A total of seven new companies in IT Sligo recently participated in the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme. It is expected that they will progress to either Enterprise Ireland or local enterprise offices for further support and development.

I thank the Minister. I acknowledge the reply to Deputy Burke's question, but I want to highlight the wonderful work done by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in my area and that of the Minister who has been in Sligo on numerous occasions. The most recent occasion was to announce jobs in Sligo and surrounding areas. We have been very successful in that regard. There has been a good team effort on the part of Sligo County Council, IT Sligo - the Minister recently mentioned the work being done in it - and the chambers of commerce in the region. I also acknowledge the wonderful work being done by Mr. John Nugent, regional manager, and Carole Brenan in Enterprise Ireland. They are the people who are assisting and working extremely hard to create jobs in Sligo and surrounding areas. The Minister might like to make a statement on it.

We spoke earlier about the unique position of County Westmeath in attracting foreign direct investment.

Thankfully, we have the M4 and the M6 and a good educational institution. I ask the Minister to keep the black spot of Mullingar on her radar. The 68-acre IDA Ireland Business and Technology Park in Mullingar was purchased over ten years ago, yet there is still only one business located in it. There is a huge opportunity in the area owing to its proximity to Dublin and access to a quality workforce. However, the Government needs to make an extra effort to prioritise it for foreign direct investment.

I am particularly familiar with that business park because Deputy Burke had me visit the site. I will make sure IDA Ireland takes the Deputy's points into consideration when arranging site visits.

I refer to Deputy McLoughlin's question. All politics is local. A landing space was opened in Sligo in November 2018 through a partnership between IDA Ireland, IT Sligo and Sligo County Council. An open plan, turnkey office space has been provided in Sligo for companies that wish to quickly and effectively establish operations in the north-west region. County Sligo has also benefited from IDA Ireland's regional property programme through the construction of an advanced technology building in 2017. The facility was leased to Abbott which led to the creation of valuable new jobs in the area.

That is wonderful news, for which we are very thankful. As the Minister knows, a new site is being developed at Oakfield, where IDA Ireland has acquired quite an amount of land. New buildings, roads and everything else are being worked on. I appeal to the Minister to develop more jobs in the Sligo area because we now have the facilities and will have more in Oakfield in the near future. She has visited the site and I have highlighted the need for more jobs in the region.

I am aware of the wonderful facilities in Sligo. There are some fine facilities across the country thanks to investment in recent years. The regional enterprise development plan has identified these strengths and how we can build on them, while IDA Ireland takes account of all the spaces available. It is working closely with the local authorities and local enterprise offices in attracting investment into the regions. It is developing a new strategy. I can assure the Deputy that regional development will be one of its priorities in the new strategy.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.