Regional development, not just in the Border area but across Ireland, remains a key priority for me and my Department and its Agencies are focused on strengthening investment and job creation all over the country.
The recent annual results of the IDA demonstrate that we are making significant strides. In 2018, for example, 56% of all net new jobs created by the Agency were in locations outside Dublin. Similarly, every region in Ireland, including the Border Region, posted net gains in jobs last year. There are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies outside the capital. In fact, 58% of all IDA-supported employment is now outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed in the regions by IDA clients in the Agency’s history.
While there were no new foreign direct investment (FDI) supported jobs created in Cavan in 2018, Monaghan experienced an 8% increase in FDI employment, with 12 jobs added by companies in the County. Similarly, Meath saw a 4.5% increase in IDA supported employment, with the creation of 67 new jobs last year.
With regard to site visits, there were five to County Meath and one each to Counties Cavan and Monaghan in the first three quarters of 2018. Data on the number of site visits for the last three months of year will become available shortly.
While more work remains to be done, the Border region has benefitted from the IDA's regional focus. The area experienced a 3% growth in employment by overseas companies in 2018 and we are already working hard to increase this figure in 2019. As part of that work, the IDA are directly investing in a building programme to help ensure property solutions are in place for overseas companies considering investing or expanding outside our major cities.
As part of Budget 2019, I allocated an additional €10m for the next phase of the IDA Regional Property Programme. I am pleased to inform the Deputy that programme includes plans for an Advanced Technology Unit (ATU) at Knockaconny, County Monaghan. The IDA are currently in the process of procuring a design and delivery team for this facility.
The wider Border region will also benefit, with new buildings planned for Dundalk and Sligo, which I am confident will help generate new opportunities for the wider area.
The Agency has a dedicated regional manager for the North East/North West Region and an office in the Cavan Innovation and Technology Centre. As part of its strategy to promote the area, it is focusing on sectors including agri-food, manufacturing, tourism and internationally traded services. The IDA regularly engages with key stakeholders on the ground in Cavan and Monaghan, including with local authorities, public bodies, the education sector and companies from both its own client base but also from the indigenous sector. County Meath is being actively marketed by the IDA as a location for second sites for multinationals in the Dublin region, with a focus on building clusters in existing sectors like high-value manufacturing and international services.
It is important to emphasise that FDI only forms one part of investment in regional locations. Indigenous enterprise is responsible for a significant portion of employment growth, especially outside Dublin. Both Monaghan and Cavan have seen promising growth in the numbers employed in Enterprise Ireland-backed firms, with increases of 5% and 6% respectively. County Meath has seen a 4% increase in EI-backed businesses. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are also performing well, with net increases of 100 jobs, 142 jobs and 162 jobs in LEO-supported companies in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath respectively in 2017.
Another example of the success of this Government's strategy for regional job creation is Combilift's new €50 million Research & Development and Testing Centre in County Monaghan. This new investment will create 200 jobs and represents a home-grown success story. The positive impact that Combilift has on the county and the border area cannot be underestimated.
We recognise that there is room for improvement in Cavan, Monaghan and Meath and we are working hard, across Government, to further unlock the economic potential of these counties. The Enterprise Agencies under my remit will continue to engage with their clients, and with one another, to create jobs and source new investment in 2019.