Thursday, 7 March 2019

Ceisteanna (4)

Mattie McGrath


4. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the visits by the IDA to County Tipperary and each county from 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

How many visits has IDA Ireland made to County Tipperary in comparison with other counties from 2016 to date? According to the findings of the South East Economic Monitor, IDA Ireland-supported jobs are among the highest paid in the country, with 75% of all such jobs having incomes in excess of €35,000. While 8.8% of the population resides in the south-east, just 5.4% of all IDA Ireland-supported employment was there until recently. That is 61% of the fair share.

Increasing the level of foreign direct investment in regional Ireland, including in County Tipperary, has been a priority of mine since I was first appointed Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. As an elected representative of Cavan-Monaghan, I know how important it is to create new jobs and economic opportunities in regional areas. That is why I am committed to achieving the best possible spread of FDI across the country and to working with our enterprise agencies to generate employment and investment outside our main cities.

We are making good progress in this regard. More jobs were created in IDA Ireland client companies outside Dublin in 2018 than at any point in the last 17 years. Every region in the country saw FDI-driven job gains and there are now over 132,000 people employed in IDA Ireland client firms outside the capital, representing nearly 60% of all IDA Ireland-supported employment. It is important to note this represents the highest number of people employed in IDA-supported companies outside of Dublin in the history of the organisation. These positive results clearly show that Government policy is working and demonstrate the huge strides that have been made in terms of boosting FDI related job creation across Ireland.

As for Tipperary in particular, we want to grow its stock of FDI in 2019, just as we want to increase investment in every other county in the country. Tipperary is already home to ten IDA Ireland client firms, which collectively employ more than 3,700 people. This client base includes well known firms such as Abbott Ireland, Boston Scientific and Merck, Sharp and Dohme. Last year saw a net total of 55 new FDI jobs created in Tipperary.

A key focus for the agency in the county in 2019 is supporting further job growth in companies already present there.  Experience, gained over decades of FDI in Ireland, shows us that overseas companies already in situ are the most likely to generate new employment opportunities. IDA Ireland staff work closely with client companies to explore the potential for further such job creation and they are certainly doing that with client firms in Tipperary as well.

The agency is also working hard to secure new investors and overseas firms for Tipperary. Site visits are an important part of this. There were eight such visits to sites in Tipperary in each of 2016 and 2017, with five visits taking place last year.

I very much welcome the fact that there is foreign direct investment in Clonmel and south Tipperary. They are great companies providing great employment and spin-off activity. As I said, 2017 was a very good year for IDA Ireland in the south east, with a significant deficit reduced by almost 200 jobs. The number of IDA Ireland-supported jobs increased by 10.9% in the south east, an impressive performance against a mere 5.3% increase nationally. However, since 2011 the south east has only accounted for 5% of the net jobs created nationally. While there are foreign direct investment jobs in Clonmel, Tipperary town and west Tipperary have none. The Minister referred to eight visits each year. Were any of those visits to Tipperary town? Other Deputies here have promised that big things were going to happen with IDA Ireland, but we now know a certain premises in Tipperary town is not even on the list. It is worrying that while there are jobs in the county town of Clonmel and some in Cashel, they are not in Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary town or Cahir. We need a balanced spread to those areas. Dublin is getting the lion's share of everything and Tipperary is not getting the spin-off.

There are no incentives for a company to locate in Dublin. The incentives apply when companies locate outside Dublin. I wish to have a strong city but I also wish to have strong regions because both are necessary. It should not be a case of Dublin against the rest of the country. I am from rural Ireland too and we want jobs in the regions. That is certainly a priority for me. However, experience shows that FDI-driven job creation is more likely to come from firms already in the country. Moreover, we must remember that site visits are only a preliminary step in encouraging investors to locate in Ireland. The final decision as to an investment location tends to come much later and always rests with the firm concerned.

Negative comments about an area are very unhelpful when attracting FDI. We must focus on the strengths and potential. The regional enterprise plans are focusing on the positives while addressing the weaknesses. I was in Tipperary recently to launch the regional enterprise plan. We cannot forget that FDI only forms one part of our enterprise base. Indigenous firms are responsible for a significant portion of employment.

I know the Minister's constituency quite well. It is similar to Tipperary with regard to employment. Worryingly, of the 3,530 jobs announced in IDA Ireland's 2018 mid-year performance update relating to 21 publicly announced projects, out of a total of 139 projects, no project was expected to generate employment in the south east. A year and a half ago, statistics from the EUROSTAT yearbook report demonstrated that over 50% of Ireland's GDP, the total value of everything produced in the country, is generated in Dublin. This is despite the fact that approximately 60% of the population live outside Dublin city and county. The figures point to the disproportionate levels of economic activity that are concentrated in Dublin. I did not say there were any incentives for companies to come to Dublin, but everything is coming to Dublin. We must shift the balance. Otherwise we will choke the environment, given the housing crisis and everything else. It is clear that the rest of the country, particularly rural Ireland, is being left to stagnate while Dublin is bursting at the seams. Something must be done about it, especially for places such as Tipperary town and west Tipperary.

Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland employ 5,921 people in Tipperary, and 136 new jobs were created in Tipperary in 2018. The local enterprise office also had a very good year with 160 new jobs created in Tipperary in 2018. As I said, I recently launched the regional enterprise plan at Lisheen Mine. I was pleased to allocate funding of over €4.6 million to the Irish Bioeconomy Foundation in the old Lisheen Mine. It is a wonderful facility. When I was there I also visited the AgriChemWhey project to see what it is doing. It is building a first-of-a-kind industrial scale biorefinery. It is a flagship project that is focused on the development of an integrated biorefinery for the conversion of residues from the food processing industry to high-value sustainable foods and products. That is a €30 million project funded under Horizon 2020. In addition, Tipperary town received €600,000 under the regeneration project. There is a great deal happening there. The regional enterprise plans have a ground-up approach and there is a special focus in the plan for the mid-west on Tipperary. I realise there have been problems there and we want to address those problems to ensure that jobs are created throughout the county. As I said, Tipperary town gets a special mention.

Before we move to the next question, please do not to take advantage of me if I am too flexible with regard to time, as Deputies are waiting to ask their questions. I am sure Deputy Ó Cuív will set the standard.