Thursday, 7 March 2019

Ceisteanna (6)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

6. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will consider transferring the non-urban properties owned by the IDA to Enterprise Ireland in view of the fact that most non-urban business developments are indigenous; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10962/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

When IDA Ireland was split and Enterprise Ireland was separated from it, for some reason all the properties were left in the ownership of IDA Ireland even though the chance of foreign direct investment going into some of the locations owned by IDA Ireland is very small. If there is to be proactive use of these sites it would be much better to transfer them to Enterprise Ireland.

The availability of marketable serviced land and buildings in advance of demand remains a key element in IDA Ireland's ability to compete for mobile foreign direct investment. Not only does such a supply of properties help the agency to secure significant investments, it also allows projects to begin at an earlier date by diminishing difficulties associated with land acquisition, planning and construction. That is why the IDA's property services are important when it comes to supporting enterprise and job creation in Ireland.

While the IDA itself is focused on inward investment, the agency manages its property portfolio for the benefit of both its own clients and those of Enterprise Ireland. IDA Ireland's property team, for example, works closely with Enterprise Ireland to support the needs of indigenous companies that may be seeking appropriate properties. There is also ongoing engagement between the two agencies about the property needs of their respective clients. This includes plans to develop campus style property solutions to support development and business-to-business collaborations.

As regards IDA Ireland's wider work in regional development, IDA Ireland does its utmost to encourage its clients to locate or expand outside of the main cities. This is just as much a priority for the agency as it is for the Department and the Government. Indeed, IDA Ireland is continuing to target an increase of investment of 30% to 40% in every region by the end of its current strategy in 2019.

The agency’s staff are also working hard to showcase the benefits of regional areas to firms considering investing or expanding in Ireland. At the same time, as I have said previously, we must recognise that the final decision in terms of where to invest is always a matter for the company. It is also the case that regardless of what efforts IDA Ireland or the Government make to underline the undoubted benefits of regional locations, certain overseas companies will only consider investing in large urban areas for operational reasons. That is a commercial reality. It is, nevertheless, important that the agency has a supply of available sites that can be offered to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, EI, firms considering making job-rich investments. This helps to encourage investors to initiate projects, particularly in the regions. It should be stressed that IDA Ireland works closely with city and county councils to ensure that its property acquisitions are in line with local area, county and city development plans.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I want to emphasise that IDA Ireland-owned sites are never intentionally left idle or vacant. The opposite is the case. IDA Ireland is doing everything possible to market these properties to investors and to convince them to locate there. It actively brings regional locations and suitable sites to the attention of all its clients, whether existing companies in Ireland that are looking to expand or first-time clients overseas. More generally, we are achieving real results in deepening the spread of regional foreign direct investment, FDI. IDA Ireland's 2018 results bear out this assessment. Last year, the agency delivered 113 regional investments, with 56% of net new jobs created outside of Dublin. Moreover, the last four years have seen over 44,000 new FDI-driven jobs created outside the capital. We will continue to do our utmost to reinforce and strengthen these positive trends and to further job creation across the entirety of the country.

I thank the Minister of State for putting so much effort into answering everything but the question I asked to be addressed. I accept that a great deal of time was spent on drafting the reply but it does not address the issue.

IDA Ireland owns all of the sites. I acknowledge that if Enterprise Ireland needs a building, it will be facilitated by IDA Ireland but many of the IDA Ireland-owned sites in rural Ireland are not being proactively managed. I am in the happy position of being able to compare IDA Ireland's performance in my constituency outside of Galway city with the performance of Údarás na Gaeltachta. The latter proactively manages sites and puts them to multiple uses that create employment because it has an overarching responsibility in that regard.

I ask the Minister of State to discard the script and to try to answer the following question. Should consideration be given to the transfer of sites to Enterprise Ireland to ensure they are used for indigenous development rather than foreign direct investment?

Deputy Ó Cuív should have listened to the reply. I will repeat what I said, without the script. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland work together. This collaboration is extremely important for job creation in Ireland. Without it, and the co-operation of the local enterprise offices, we would not be in the position we are in now where unemployment is at 5.6%. The IDA may have idle sites but they are important to IDA Ireland because there may be companies, whether overseas companies or indigenous companies, who want to locate in a rural location, as has happened in many instances in the past, including in Galway. The Deputy is missing the point. These agencies are professional and, as I pointed out earlier, they do work together. In terms of job creation, 57% of the IDA Ireland-created jobs were in areas outside of the greater Dublin area. In terms of Enterprise Ireland, the statistics are even greater. The collaboration of these agencies is extremely important.

I ask the Minister of State to outline IDA Ireland's planned engagements in regard to its business parks in Roundstone and Ballinrobe and whether Enterprise Ireland has been actively developing digital hubs in the same way that Údarás na Gaeltachta has been doing in these IDA Ireland-owned properties that are not used for any other purpose. If the Minister of State does not have that information to hand, he might come back to me on it.

I do not have the information in regard to Roundstone and Ballinrobe but I will ensure it is forwarded to the Deputy.

The Deputy asked about digital hubs. They are an extremely important part of the creation of jobs in the regions. If the Deputy had listened to my earlier reply he would have heard me say that Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland work closely with the local authorities and city councils in this regard. For example, in my own county, digital hubs were recently opened by Clare County Council in four small towns. We are providing digital hubs to benefit people in rural areas. The provision of digital hubs is a priority. The Government is currently preparing a national digital strategy and we will be launching the future jobs initiative on Sunday. This is a priority area for all of us, including the regions.

I reiterate that there is collaboration on these issues between the two main agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. They are working hand in hand but Enterprise Ireland is focused on the indigenous sector and IDA Ireland is focused on foreign direct investment. If there is an IDA Ireland-owned vacant site in a rural area and Enterprise Ireland is actively seeking a site in that area, the agencies will work together to ensure the site is made available.