I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue on the Adjournment. Losing a blue-chip company such as Vodafone is a huge blow for the Dundalk region. I am very concerned about the job losses that have occurred in the area and about the impact they have had on the workers concerned, their families and the affected communities.
Job creation is central to our economic recovery, and the programme for Government has job creation at its core. The role of my Department is to ensure that we have the right policies in place that will support and grow our enterprise base in order to facilitate both job creation and job retention. The programmes supported by my Department and its agencies will be critical in achieving economic growth through promoting the export potential of enterprise in Ireland and driving our smart economy. The allocation of €508 million in funding for 2011 will ensure that the core programmes of the enterprise agencies are sustained and targeted in addition to driving investment in research and development. This investment in the enterprise development agencies will drive recovery in the economy by facilitating the winning of foreign direct investments, the growth of indigenous exports and the creation of sustainable jobs.
The State development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, as well as Louth County Enterprise Board, will continue to promote Dundalk and the surrounding area for industrial projects and enterprise development. These activities will, in turn, create and protect jobs in the area. I listened very actively to what Deputy Kirk stated about the very disappointing loss of a blue-chip company.
Enterprise Ireland will support job creation through a number of interventions, such as assisting the establishment and growth of high-potential start-up companies and supporting companies to target new opportunities in overseas markets. In 2010, Enterprise Ireland paid €6.4 million to companies in County Louth in the engineering, food, consumer products and ICT sectors. To date in 2011, Enterprise Ireland has paid over €650,000 to client companies in the county. At present, there are 181 Enterprise Ireland client companies in County Louth employing over 4,200 people. The agency has also approved funding for six community enterprise centres in County Louth, under the community enterprise centre scheme, which can be very successful in conjunction with the local partnership companies.
County Louth has the largest concentration of IDA Ireland-supported companies in the north-east region with more than 1,600 people employed in 23 companies. IDA Ireland is actively marketing County Louth for new inward investment, particularly the gateway town of Dundalk in addition to Drogheda. In 2011 to date, there have been 11 site visits to County Louth and the majority of these would have been to the Dundalk area. The region is being targeted by IDA Ireland for new investment in the pharma, clean technologies, globally traded businesses and financial services sectors. IDA Ireland has developed a major land bank at Mullagharlin, to the south of Dundalk. This is particularly targeted at bio-pharma type activities for which the town is being actively marketed. In addition, Finnabair Business Park has in recent years undergone major site development works to bring it up to flagship standard. Two of the buildings on the site are partially occupied, while the third is available for marketing.
Since its inception in 1993 to the end of 2010, Louth County Enterprise Board has issued over €5.2 million in grant assistance to almost 600 clients. There are nearly 900 people employed full time in CEB-assisted companies in County Louth. The board works with other agencies in the area to develop and assist enterprise projects. In this context, an enterprise centre for creative industries will begin construction in Dundalk in June with support from the board, Dundalk District Council, Enterprise Ireland and other funders, at a total cost of €1.52 million. This facility will provide 22 workspace units for new enterprises, in addition to training and communal networking space. From information currently available, Louth County Enterprise Board has approved €172,000 in grant support to date in 2011 for 14 micro-enterprise projects, of which €107,500 was approved for seven projects in the Dundalk area. In addition, the board provides Start Your Own Business training, in which I am very interested, for 150 participants annually, in addition to running business training modules and seminars for small businesses in the county.
The jobs initiative announced on 10 May focuses our limited resources on measures that offer the greatest potential for expansion and employment creation in the domestic economy. It focuses on labour intensive areas that will generate jobs quickly. The intention of the measures announced is to target resources at key sectors of the economy that can assist in getting people back to work, provide opportunities for those who have lost their jobs to re-skill, and build the confidence that will encourage consumers to spend. The initiative represents a very positive intervention to support those entrepreneurs and business people who will create jobs and rebuild the economy.
My colleague, the Minster for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, has announced new initiatives to get lines of credit flowing to business. This is the backbone of the economy. First, a partial loan guarantee scheme will be in operation by the autumn. This measure will be of particular help to the innovative companies we are trying to encourage as part of the growth strategy. For every €400 million guaranteed by the State an additional 4,500 companies can get further credit that will, in turn, create more than 8,000 jobs.
Second, a micro-finance fund will provide funding for small loans to start-up companies. We recognise that many start-up companies lack the small amounts of finance that can be the difference between success and failure. This commitment on a micro-finance fund is the Government's contribution to filling this gap in the availability of enterprise finance in the market.
Third, from 1 July all Government bodies, excluding commercial semi-State bodies, will be required to pay suppliers within 15 days of receipt of a valid invoice. Given that the public sector enters contracts with suppliers worth €15 billion each year, the importance of such a policy becomes clear for all the companies which do business with the State.
The actions to be taken across government will stimulate the economy, facilitate enterprise and encourage job creation, including in County Louth. We very much appreciate the points the Deputy made in this regard.