As set out in the Programme for a Partnership Government, enterprise development and job creation in the regions of Ireland is a key policy priority of this Government. In that context, since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made regional development 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.
For the State as a whole, since the launch of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs (RAPJ), over the period Q1 2015 to Q3 2018, there has been an increase of 258,800 people in employment, with 163,500 of these located in the regions outside Co. Dublin – that is 3 out of every 5 jobs created.
We remain committed to achieving an overall jobs uplift of between 10 and 15 percent in each region by 2020 and to bring and/or maintain unemployment levels in each region to within at least one percentage point of the State average.
Latest CSO Labour Force Survey figures available at regional level show that the Mid East is performing very strongly and that the unemployment rate in the Region is currently at 5.8% as of Q3 2018, just below the State unemployment rate of 6.0%.
Since my Department's Regional Action Plan for Jobs (RAPJ) initiative commenced, employment in the region has grown by 10.9% from Q1 2015 to Q3 2018. There are 32,200 more people in employment in the region from Q1 2015 to Q3 2018.
In April 2018, I asked the RAPJ Implementation Committees, including in the Mid East, to refresh and refocus their Plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020, especially in the face of current challenges, including Brexit. I expect to launch the new refreshed Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid East in February.
Enterprise Ireland continues to work to contribute to employment and economic growth throughout all regions. Under its Build Scale, Expand Reach 2017 – 2020 Strategy the Agency aims to create 60,000 new jobs, while sustaining existing ones, which will make an important contribution to jobs and economic growth across all regions.
Enterprise Ireland’s Strategy places the regions at the core of economic growth in Ireland 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
As at December 2018, 8,923 people are now employed by Kildare companies supported by Enterprise Ireland. Employment in Enterprise Ireland supported companies in the county has grown by more than 3,900 or 78 percent over the past decade.
The LEOs operating under the auspices of the Local Authorities and EI in every county, including Co. Kildare, continue to play a vital role in providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own business. Companies supported by the LEOs in the Mid East (including Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow) collectively employ over 3,700 (latest available data is for 2017) in 775 companies. LEO supported employment grew by a total of 480 (net) in the Mid East in the year to end 2017. In Co. Kildare, 171 LEO supported companies employ 967 people, up by a total of 128 in the year to end 2017.
IDA meanwhile will continue to target a minimum increase in investment of 30% to 40% in each region outside Dublin under their Winning strategy to 2019. IDA supported companies in the Mid East region employ 13,088 people, an increase of 841 over 2017.
There are 29 IDA supported client companies in County Kildare, which as of 2018, collectively employ 8,838 people - representing an increase of 4.5% over 2017. The County has a strong contingent of overseas firms in the Technology, Financial Services and Pharmaceuticals sectors. IDA clients such as Intel, Pfizer, and Procter and Gamble are all located in Kildare and continue to perform well.
I very much welcome INIT’s recent decision to locate their first operation outside of Germany in Kildare. In November 2018, the firm announced their plans to create a software development centre in Maynooth which will result in the creation of an additional 20 highly skilled jobs. This high-calibre investment reflects Kildare's significant potential and we will be working hard to attract further investment from overseas firms to the County.
My Department's €60 million Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), administered by Enterprise Ireland, is aimed at accelerating economic recovery in all regions of the country by delivering on the potential of local and regional enterprise strengths. The Fund supports significant collaborative and innovative regional initiatives to build on specific industry sectoral strengths and improve enterprise capability, thereby driving job creation.
In early December last, under the second call of the REDF, I announced an allocation of just over €29 million in funding to support 21 projects from all over the country. This is in addition to the over €30 million in funding under Call 1 of the REDF that I announced in December 2017 that also funded 21 projects. Over the first and second calls under REDF, the Mid East Region secured funding of almost €3.5 million across 2 projects.
1. County Kildare Community Network Company: Mid-East Regional Innovation Think Space (MERITS) is a new build project to cluster Irish and international new-technology companies and provide mentorship and support, based in Naas County Kildare.
2. Boyne Valley Food Innovation District (BVID): based in Navan, Co. Meath, BVID will deliver smart specialisation through an innovation-rich building and stimulus project for the Mid and North East regions which will empower food and drink entrepreneurs, escalate their growth and provide the economic, physical, and networking assets, aiming to create up to 250 new jobs, 50 new and expanding food businesses, 200 new/improved food and drink products, €25m per annum in new export sales, 900 entrepreneurs and learners with increased competencies, and 60 interns delivering fresh talent and innovation.