Thursday, 29 June 2017

Ceisteanna (11, 31)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

11. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the strategy her Department will pursue to ensure that the IDA Ireland performance regarding inward investment in County Laois is improved; and her contact in IDA Ireland in this regard. [30217/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

31. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the actions the Government will take to ensure that there is not a repeat of the severely low job creation figures in IDA Ireland backed enterprises in County Laois in 2015 and 2016. [30218/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Jobs)

These questions relate to IDA Ireland's performance in County Laois, which has been very poor, to put it mildly. We want to try to ascertain Government strategy in terms of getting jobs into the regions, particularly the midlands, because we are falling seriously behind according to replies that we have received to parliamentary questions from the Department.

I have already stated here today that the Government is committed to regional development. The Deputy can see from the IDA Ireland figures the percentage of new jobs that are being created and the investment made outside of Dublin. We are working towards ambitious targets to ensure that employment and investment are fairly distributed, if one likes, as much as possible throughout the country. I am sure the Deputy is familiar with the fact that in June 2015 my Department published a midlands regional enterprise strategy as part of the Action Plan for Jobs. I take the Deputy's point that more needs to be done, especially in counties such as County Laois. County Laois is marketed by IDA Ireland as part of the midlands region, together with counties Westmeath, Longford and Offaly. There are 30 multinational companies based in the midlands, employing 4,280 people. There are 115 people employed by those IDA Ireland client companies based in County Laois.

Site visits represent one tool through which IDA Ireland has sought to encourage more investment in County Laois. There were ten such visits to the county across 2015 and 2016, which ultimately led to the creation of 28 new IDA Ireland-supported jobs. I assure the Deputy that the agency continues to promote County Laois as an investment location to overseas companies. I am hopeful that further jobs will be created there by IDA Ireland companies and clients in the future.

County Laois is also part of the midlands region for the purposes of the regional action plans. The County Laois local enterprise office, LEO, is currently advancing three projects which are in receipt of approximately €230,000 of funding through the LEO competitive fund. The Deputy will be familiar with that fund. It was made available for the regional action plans. That will support the growth of micro-enterprises and innovation in small firms, which is more necessary now than ever, as well as job creation.

I thank the Tánaiste for her reply. A lot of good work is being done at local level by the local enterprise office and the local authority. We, as public representatives, the Sinn Féin representatives no less than anyone else, are working to improve infrastructure and facilities in the county and make it attractive for inward investment. However, the record in County Laois is appalling. There were 39,609 net new jobs created in IDA Ireland-backed companies in 2015 and 2016. County Laois, as the Tánaiste noted, got just 28 of them. That is 0.07% of them. I am not arguing that County Kildare should have got less, but it got 1,140 in the same period. County Laois is at the bottom of the league and has been so consistently for more than two decades. Why?

Bord na Móna has plans for some of its Coolnamona sites and IDA Ireland has been tasked with marketing them. It has been requested by Bord na Móna to do that. There are business parks in the county and huge infrastructure improvements in terms of motorways and broadband. The facilities in the county in terms of hotels, golf courses, swimming pools and sports facilities are excellent. It has the infrastructure needed to address quality of life issues. When I became a councillor, I was told that we lagged behind in respect of all those matters. We have done all of that and have excellent facilities and infrastructure in the county. All parties are behind this, yet 0.07% of jobs are going to the county. There are 10,000 people a day commuting out of County Laois to work. That is not acceptable in a county of 85,000 people.

The Deputy makes relevant points about the development of the infrastructure that is needed to sustain foreign direct investment and to create jobs. In every county we are looking at both the foreign direct investment and the indigenous companies that we want to support because small and medium enterprises are the backbone of job creation in the country.

I take the points the Deputy is making but it seems to me from what he is saying that Laois is well placed to attract further FDI and we support the IDA to do just that. We want to see all of the regions benefitting. We also have the regional action plans to make sure of that. They all have ambitious programmes now. There is potential in the area. We want to grow that number. We want to increase the level of FDI-driven employment in the county. The Deputy has made a very good case. We need to try to ensure companies are attracted to the region and that more jobs will be created. There are 30 multinational companies based in the midlands area. I have already given that statistic that 70% of jobs that are created with IDA companies are created by companies already here. There is potential to grow locally from those companies.

I thank the Tánaiste for her reply. I welcome the midlands regional enterprise strategy. I want the Minister to focus on the Laois part of it. We do not want to take a hands-off approach on the IDA. It is funded by the taxpayer and public funds. The Minister is new in the job. I congratulate her and wish her the best of luck in her new role. I want to give the county particular focus. We cannot continue to be forgotten about. When the Tánaiste was Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, she focused on Laois and came down to visit the facilities there. She prioritised certain things she was asked to do locally, which was welcome. I want her to do the same with this. I want her to recognise there is a black hole here in terms of IDA investment. I want her to contact her senior officials in the IDA and ask them to specifically focus on the business parks and facilities we have in the county and to try to use the midlands regional strategy to improve matters.

I have no doubt the IDA will look at the transcripts of this discussion and note the points the Deputy has made very persuasively, as Deputies from every county also have. I reassure the Deputy the regional focus is a very important one for the IDA. It is a very serious one. The job creation that is happening outside Dublin is testament to that, with over 52% of jobs that have been created being outside Dublin. I reassure the Deputy the IDA engages regularly with the local authority in Laois and with those in Longford, Westmeath and Offaly. There is more work to be done. We are supporting IDA and its staff to continue the very intensive focus on job creation and meeting new companies. I have already met quite a number of companies that are showing a huge interest in investing in Ireland. Every effort will be made to ensure the kind of investment we have seen in the past few years will be continued.