I propose to take Questions Nos. 176 and 177 together.
The North East/North West Regional Action Plan for Jobs is a key Government response for supporting employment growth in the Border region. The Plan is stimulating job creation across the region, including Counties Cavan and Monaghan, by facilitating collaborative initiatives between the public and private sector, and through the provision of new competitive funds, awarded through Enterprise Ireland (EI) to support regional enterprise projects.
The core objective of the Action Plan is to have a further 28,000 at work in the region by 2020. We are aiming to ensure the unemployment rate is within 1% of the State average.
Sectors targeted as part of the plan include traditionally strong sectors for the region like agri-food, manufacturing/engineering and tourism. The Local Authorities, enterprise agencies, and other key public and private sector stakeholders in Counties Cavan and Monaghan have been strongly involved in, and are key drivers of the Action Plan.
The third progress report covering the period from June-December 2017 is being finalised and shows that good progress is being made. The progress reports are available on www.regionalapj.ie.
Some 12,000 jobs were created in the Border region since the regional Action Plans for Jobs initiative was launched in January 2015 while the unemployment rate in the region has fallen since then and now stands at 6.5% according to the CSO.
Furthermore, Live Register numbers have fallen in County Cavan by 16.1% and in County Monaghan by 15.3% in the past 12 months. There is of course always room for improvement but the latest CSO figures are testament to the Government’s efforts to help create jobs and reduce unemployment.
In May 2017 Enterprise Ireland launched the Regional Enterprise Development Fund with funding of up to €60m, designed to support the ambition, goals, and implementation of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs. The first call under this Fund concluded last August, with results announced on 11th December and 21 projects were successful, totalling €30.5m in aggregate grant support. The second call will fund projects from the remaining balance of the €60m budget available, and is expected to issue in Q1 2018.
Monaghan County Enterprise Fund is one of the 21 collaborative projects that secured funding under Stream 3 which is designed to support Local & Community Enterprise Development Projects with grants of €50,000 up to €250,000 per project. The project involves the development of a Regional Food Centre of Excellence and a range of Food Product development supports.
Enterprise Ireland together with the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) play a critical role in driving and nurturing entrepreneurship all the way from an originating idea at local level, to taking-on global markets. In 2017, EI paid €2.5m to companies in Cavan and €7.2m to companies in Monaghan.
Capital allocations of €565,001 and €583,428 were made available to LEO Monaghan and LEO Cavan respectively in 2018 to fund investment in their clients by way of grants and a range of “soft” supports, such as training and mentoring. This funding is supplemented by a further €132,000 investment fund to both LEOs under the Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) competition – a total of 32 (Monaghan) and 31 (Cavan) applications were received by end September 2017.
Both LEO Monaghan and LEO Cavan are also in partnership with the LEOs in Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo in a project that was awarded funding of €175,000 in 2016 under the LEO Competitive Fund. The programme – ACCELINVEST – aims at creating a clear pathway for export focused, investment-ready regional companies to progress from the LEO Network to Enterprise Ireland. LEO Cavan is also a partner in 2 other competitive fund projects with the LEOs in Leitrim, Longford and Roscommon. The LEOs concerned were awarded almost €220,000 to collaborate on a Graduate Internship for Entrepreneurship Programme in their areas and an initiative aimed at encouraging shared learning, dynamic trade development and knowledge transfer in the creative sector.
2017 was the first year of EI’s strategy, Build Scale, Expand Reach 2017 – 2020. This Strategy is focused on:
- Assisting clients to create 60,000 new jobs by 2020 while sustaining the existing record level of jobs;
- Growing the annual exports of client companies by €5bn to €26bn per annum;
- Increasing the level of spend made by client companies in the Irish economy by €4bn to €27bn per annum by 2020; and
- Inspiring more Irish owned companies to have global ambition.
I am committed to work closely with Enterprise Ireland to drive this Strategy, to ensure that it continues to support companies in urban and rural areas to start, innovate, increase our exports and remain competitive in international markets, now and into the future. In recent months, with the support of my Department, EI has launched new measures to strengthen the rural and regional economy and to provide quicker access to innovation funding for exporting companies. This includes the new €60m Regional Enterprise Development Fund mentioned earlier and a new fast-track Agile Innovation Fund.
My priority, as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, is to drive creation of high-quality and sustainable employment across Ireland, including in Cavan and Monaghan. We are making significant progress towards achieving our regional development targets, which include a 30% to 40% increase in FDI in the North East Region. There are 36 multinational companies based in this region, employing 5,007 staff.