Thursday, 31 January 2019

Ceisteanna (8)

Peter Burke


8. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she and agencies under her aegis are taking to support job creation in counties Westmeath and Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4443/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (11 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

Deputy Peter Burke is absent and I have accepted Deputy Tony McLoughlin to put the question and receive the Minister's reply.

I thank the Acting Chairman. I am putting this question on behalf of my colleague Deputy Peter Burke to ask the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she is taking to support job creation in counties Westmeath and Longford, and if she will make a statement on the matter.

I thank Deputy McLoughlin for putting this question on behalf of Deputy Peter Burke. I congratulate Deputy Burke and his wife Olivia on the birth of their new baby boy. The Deputy was supposed to be in the Chamber for this parliamentary question but I think he deserves the day off. We want to wish them well.

I am committed to delivering on this Government's objective of achieving sustainable economic growth in all regions and to ensuring that all regions achieve their growth and jobs potential. I am leading a range of initiatives in my Department and its agencies to deliver on this commitment, including a review and a refresh of the regional action plan process. The first midlands Regional Action Plan for Jobs was launched in June 2015. Based on a review of achievements to date and future potential that was undertaken by my Department with stakeholders in the midlands region I will launch the first of the refreshed regional enterprise plans on 6 February for the midlands, which covers Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath. The regional enterprise plans are crucial in meeting the Government’s ambition to create an additional 200,000 jobs by 2020, of which 135,000 will be outside the Dublin region.

Enterprise Ireland is actively working with companies in counties Longford and Westmeath to help them start and scale, innovate and remain competitive on international markets. In response to Brexit, Enterprise Ireland is building resilience in Irish exporting companies focused on innovation, market diversification and competitiveness, and it is addressing the awareness and preparedness of companies for Brexit.

The Enterprise Ireland agile innovation roadshow in Athlone and Longford, scheduled for 20 March and 10 April respectively, will advise companies on support for researching and developing new products and processes.

Through the regional enterprise development fund, Enterprise Ireland invested €60 million in 42 projects to build capability in key sectors. The projects put forward by Irish Manufacturing Research and the Longford Digital and Technology Hub were successful.

The Leitrim County Enterprise Fund Limited, which was another successful applicant, is a collaborative project between members of the Upper Shannon Erne Future Economy, which in this case entails the development of a network of three digital and innovation hubs in Leitrim, Cavan and Longford.

I also send congratulations to the Burke family on their new arrival.

I spoke with Deputy Burke this morning and he asked me to highlight a number of issues with regard to his constituency, and Mullingar specifically. There is a 60 acre area for advanced factories or developments. Currently there is just one unit on this site and Deputy Burke asks if it is possible, with the Minister's plans in early February, that Mullingar would be earmarked for more investment and development through Enterprise Ireland or through IDA Ireland.

I too extend congratulations to Deputy Burke and his wife. It is a great occasion for them.

I thank Deputy McLoughlin. In 2018 we had another record year for IDA Ireland with job creation when the agency had its highest regional jobs growth in 17 years. A total of 58% of all IDA Ireland employment is now outside of Dublin. Enterprise Ireland also had a record year, with two thirds of all Enterprise Ireland employment now outside of Dublin. I want to ensure that we continue to build on those strong results in counties such as Longford and Westmeath.

The next phase for the IDA Ireland regional property programme has commenced and approval was given for additional funding in budget 2019 for new IDA Ireland advance properties in Sligo, Dundalk, Athlone and Monaghan. I will, of course, highlight the need - the IDA is well aware of the need - to have these buildings right across the State.

I will launch the midlands regional enterprise plan in Laois next week. The midlands has shown excellent progress in employment levels since the launch of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs, with an employment growth rate above the 2020 target of 10% to 15%.

I thank the Minister for that information. If Deputy Burke was here he would be in a much stronger position to highlight some of the other issues the Minister has referred to. With the indulgence of colleagues I have a question coming up, No. 14. Is it possible that it may be taken?

It depends what the question is. We will see. Please proceed.

My question is relevant. What steps have been taken by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in County Sligo? Perhaps, if it is acceptable, the Minister could also comment on this.

I am aware that this question is coming up later, and if I get a chance I will give more detail to the Deputy. There has been a lot of job creation in the north-west region in the past year. I am very pleased with that. Since we launched Project Ireland 2040 jobs creation in Sligo seems to come into the news on monthly basis. I am aware that Deputy McLoughlin has played a very important role in ensuring that investment came to his region.

I will visit Drumshanbo on 25 February to launch the regional enterprise plan for the north west. My Department and its agencies are working towards ambitious targets to ensure employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the State. Significant progress has been made with a lot of job announcements in Sligo. I compliment Sligo on its achievements because since the first Regional Action Plan for Jobs was launched on 30 November 2015 there has been a huge increase in employment in that region.

We have slipped back a good bit with time. I suppose it is my fault for giving a bit of leeway to everyone. I ask for Members' co-operation so that we can perhaps get four more questions done before 12 noon. Is Deputy McLoughlin finished? His time is up. We shall move on to Deputy Durkan.