Written Answers. - Border Region Infrastructure.
599 Mr. B. Smith asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the progress, if any, which has been made to date in implementing measures to improve the industrial infrastructure of the Border region; the funding, if any, which is being provided for such developments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16881/96]
A number of programmes and initiatives operated by the industrial development agencies, my Department and the Departments of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Environment are designed to improve the infrastructure of the Border area and to attract and encourage an increase in employment in overseas and indigenous industry in the region.
IDA Ireland have developed the following programme for the Border region:
— The provision of a private finance factory in Dundalk. It is expected that planning permission will be applied for shortly for a 28,000 square foot unit in Finnabair Industrial Park. This unit will be available for occupation in mid-1997.
— A range of options is being considered in conjunction with the local authority to provide a 50 acre land bank in the Drogheda area. To date the combined efforts of the local authority and IDA Ireland have not resulted in the identification of property which can be purchased at realistic and competitive prices. This task is ongoing.
— Active discussions are ongoing with Cavan County Council regarding lands in the council's ownership in Cavan town area which could be upgraded and developed to industrial promotional standards. IDA Ireland is hopeful of a positive outcome on this issue — a site of some 20 acres is being examined.
— Agreement has been reached between a Sligo based private developer, Rhodaville Ltd., and IDA Ireland for the provision of a 20,000 square foot advance factory at Finisklin Industrial Estate, Sligo. The developer has recently applied for planning permission. These premises on completion will be marketed by IDA Ireland to enhance the attractiveness of the area to potential mobile investors. Additional land at Finisklin Industrial Estate, Sligo is being purchased and planning permission is being sought.
— Agreement has recently been reached with Donegal County Council on the provision of land at Lisnennan, Letterkenny and together IDA Ireland and the county council propose to develop a Business Park in Letterkenny to assist County Donegal in competing for inward investment in manufacturing and international services.
It is envisaged that IDA Ireland will seek a private developer to provide an advance factory of 20,000 square feet on this site as an initial development. When completed, IDA Ireland will actively market this building to suitable overseas clients
Forbairt is actively promoting its total range of programmes and initiatives in the Border region and has been working closely with firms in the region with a view to increasing their sales and employment levels.
Arising from the Washington Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland, Forbairt has assisted the US Embassy in arranging a programme for 16 US companies to visit Northern Ireland and the Border region. Approximately 78 appointments were arranged for companies in the Border counties and other parts of Ireland. Negotiations on new business partnerships have take place as a result and are still ongoing.
A number of pan Atlantic partnership programmes have been funded through the US Department of Commerce, the International Fund for Ireland and Forbairt with the objective of helping Irish firms, particularly in the Border counties, to grow through technology acquisition and-or strategic alliance with US partners.
The programmes, which include the Forbairt-IFI North American Partnership Programme, the Forbairt Small Business Administration (US) Partnership Programme and the American Management and Business Internship Programme (AMBIT) were all launched during 1995. I anticipate that they will contribute to the growth of participating companies from the Border region in the medium to long-term. Under the North American Partnership, the first phase of which was launched in April 1995, it is expected that 900 new high tech jobs will be created from the nine partnerships already formed. It is anticipated that 10 companies per annum from the Border counties will participate in the AMBIT programme over the next three years.
The county enterprise boards from the six Border counties have approved 682 projects worth £6 million in grants of which almost £3 million was drawn down by the end of 1995. A further 81 projects worth £648,526 in grants were approved to July 1996.
In addition to its Structural Funds support for activities outlined above, the EU also supports the Ireland-Northern Ireland INTERREG programme. Out of a total of £96 million available to Irish Border counties, £36 million has been specifically earmarked for the Department of Environment to part fund the provision-improvement of roads and water and sewage works. The improvement of such basic infrastructure is a prerequisite for the expansion of industrial development in the Border counties as industrialists are most likely to choose to locate in areas where good infrastructural facilities exist.
Additional funds have also been made available under the EU programme for peace and reconciliation for the provision of suitable industrial infrastructure. The administration of these funds is a matter for the Minister for Finance and I would refer the Deputy to the response given to a parliamentary question from Deputy O'Hanlon by the Minister for Finance on 21 May in this respect.
Finally, I am aware that the International Fund for Ireland has contributed to the provision of community and workspace in the Border region. Administration of these funds is a matter for the Minister for Foreign Affairs.