I launched the new Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-East region, which covers Kildare, Meath and Wicklow, on the 7th February in Naas. It is focused on four Strategic Objectives to: develop the screen content creation sector; develop a network of innovative co-working spaces; support the agrifood sector; and ensure the availability of skills and talent.
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 is leading Strategic Objective 2 in relation to the development of a network of innovative co-working spaces in the Mid-East.
The Mid-East Regional Steering Committee, comprising representatives from the Local Authorities, the Enterprise Agencies, the LEOs, higher education institutes, ETBs and others, drives and monitors progress under the Regional Enterprise Plan, and is chaired by Mr Eamonn Sinnott, VP and General Manager, Intel Ireland.
In September of this year, I met with all of the Chairpersons and representatives of each of the nine Regional Steering Committees to review progress and I am pleased to say the implementation is well underway in all regions including the Mid-East.
The most recent CSO Labour Force Survey employment figures (Q3 2019) for the Mid-East region continue to show very good progress in employment levels since the initial Mid-East Regional Action Plan for Jobs. From Q1 2015 (baseline year) to Q3 2019, a total of 48,700 more people are in employment in the Mid- East, and unemployment has reduced over the same period from 9.6 percent to 6.1 percent.
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 REDF Call it is my intention to announce the successful projects when the evaluation process has ended by the end of this year or shortly thereafter.
Guided by the Regional Enterprise Plan, Co. Kildare and the wider Mid-East region is well positioned to build on the successes to date 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.