Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions my top priority. We want to have a situation where all regions are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic recovery and growth, and thereby reduce regional disparities.
Since the launch of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (RAPJ) there has been an increase of 258,800 people in employment across the State since Q1 2015 to Q3 2018, with 163,500 people in the regions outside of Co. Dublin entering employment in that period, that is over 63% - or 3 out of every 5 jobs created.
To enhance the potential for enterprise development in the regions, and to add value to the core work of the enterprise agencies within the regions, I will shortly be launching nine new Regional Enterprise Plans which succeed the Regional Action Plan for Jobs (RAPJ) 2015-2017 initiative. The refresh and refocus of the RAPJs through these new Plans will ensure that through further collaborative initiatives we can enhance the attractiveness of regional locations for new investment and entrepreneurship and drive the creation of jobs of quality that are sustainable in the long term. The new Plans are also an essential element to strengthen the resilience of regions and regional enterprise in the face of new challenges, including Brexit.
Strategic investments within the overarching national context, through Project Ireland 2040 are also key to ensuring each region can contribute to, and participate in Ireland’s future national growth, and sustain a higher standard of living over the longer term.
In relation to specific measures to encourage and foster job opportunities throughout the regions, Enterprise Ireland provides advice and support to indigenous companies in every county, in urban and rural areas of Ireland, to start and scale, innovate and remain competitive on international markets, now and in the future. In addition, through the network of Local Enterprise Offices in every county in Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, in partnership with the Local Authorities, plays a critical role in driving and nurturing entrepreneurship all the way from an originating idea at local level, to taking-on global markets.
Enterprise Ireland’s Corporate Strategy “Build Scale Expand Reach 2017-2020” places the regions at the core of economic growth in Ireland. The strategy sets ambitious targets to sustain 200,000 existing jobs and to create 60,000 new jobs by 2020 and is founded on four core objectives:
- To maximise growth of Enterprise Ireland clients in the regions.
- To strengthen Regional Infrastructure to maximise future growth of Irish Enterprise in the Regions
- To support Entrepreneurship in the Regions
- Work in collaboration to deliver Regional Growth
In 2018 Enterprise Ireland supported companies employed 215,207 people. During that year, 18,846 new jobs were created resulting in a net gain of 9,119 jobs. Enterprise Ireland supported companies are estimated to sustain over 375,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide. Of the new jobs supported by Enterprise Ireland in 2018, 61% were created outside of Dublin, and currently, 64% of all Enterprise Ireland supported employment is located outside of Dublin.
Enterprise Ireland is working with client companies through a network of market and sector advisers from nine offices located throughout the country. Enterprise Ireland engages with established client companies throughout the country via teams of sectoral focused development advisors using a company-led diagnostic approach which is used to establish clients’ business needs. Based on this, the agency can tailor a support package to a company’s stage of growth and level of ambition. A support package focuses, where relevant, on six business pillars (Innovation, Finance, Operations, Sales and Marketing, People and Organisational Development).
Ensuring that there is an ecosystem to support and sustain enterprises in regions is essential for regional enterprise development and job creation. To assist with balanced regional enterprise growth, Enterprise Ireland initiatives include, for example,
- Investing €60 million in 42 projects to support regions across the country to build capability in key sectors under the competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund. All regions are being supported under this competitive fund.
- Increased the number of accelerators operating in the Irish market to support entrepreneurship and job creation under the 2015 - 2017 Accelerator Development Scheme, including funding to 4 Regional Accelerators.
- Up to January 2019, EI has supported 38 companies through the EI Competitive Start Fund (CSF) which is targeting a range of areas of focus, such as international entrepreneurs, graduates, fintech, agritech and female entrepreneurs.
- Up to October 2018, EI supported 171 entrepreneurs on the New Frontiers programme which is EI’s national entrepreneur development programme for innovative, early-stage start-ups, run in the 14 Institutes of Technology and two participating Universities across the country.
Enterprise Ireland also supports client companies in regions around the country navigate the uncertainty of Brexit and has engaged in a programme of building resilience in Irish exporting companies focused on innovation, market diversification and competitiveness; and addressing the awareness and preparedness of companies to Brexit.
As regards attracting Foreign Direct Investment, IDA Ireland's performance in 2018 resulted in the sixth consecutive year of strong growth under the Agency's current strategy. By the end of last year, total employment in the Agency's client companies stood at 229,057.
Every region in Ireland has seen foreign direct investment (FDI) employment gains and there are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies located outside of Dublin. 56% of all net new FDI jobs created last year were based in regional locations.
Since the beginning of IDA Ireland’s ‘Winning’ Strategy, 407 Investments have been won for the regions and almost 27,000 net jobs have been added on the ground in locations outside Dublin. In addition, 58% of all IDA supported employment is now located outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed by IDA clients outside of Dublin in the history of the organisation.
The year 2018 saw more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years. There have been a number of positive FDI announcements in regional locations during 2018 such as:
- 600 jobs at Edwards Lifesciences in Limerick (March).
- 400 jobs at Wuxi, Dundalk and an investment €325m (April).
- 500 jobs at Abbott in Donegal (July)
- 200 jobs at Leetha Industries, Longford (May).
- 150 jobs at Jaguar LandRover, Shannon (January).
- 150 jobs at Phibro Health, Sligo (July).
Attracting to FDI to regional areas is not without its challenges. That’s largely because there is a global trend to base FDI around large urban areas where there is, for example, ready access to transport hubs and networks. Companies may also want to be located near competitors or clusters of other similar enterprises.
The IDA's Regional Property Programme (RPP) remains an important tool through which investors can be encouraged to locate in areas outside of Dublin. Budget 2019 saw the Agency allocated an additional €10m for the RPP on top of the €150 m for the RPP launched in 2015. This will help ensure that property solutions are in place for overseas companies considering investing or expanding, thereby encouraging more FDI to the regions. The IDA plans to develop new buildings in regional locations including Carlow, Dundalk, Monaghan, Sligo, Athlone, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.