My Department and its agencies are working towards ambitious targets to support job creation, while ensuring employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country, thus ensuring every region can achieve its potential. Counties Longford and Westmeath have experienced significant growth in both employment and investment in recent years, with 19,400 more people in employment in the midlands from Q1 in 2015 to Q2 in 2019.
In February this year I launched a new Midlands regional enterprise plan to 2020 to cover counties Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath. It builds on the success of the previous midlands action plan for jobs by setting out a number of strategic objectives aimed at realising the enterprise and jobs potential in the midlands region. The enterprise agencies within my remit play a key role in achieving these objectives, with a comprehensive range of supports provided for companies by Enterprise Ireland, the local enterprise offices and IDA Ireland.
In Deputy McLoughlin's region, as Minister, I have made regional enterprise development one of my key priorities. That is why I led the development of the regional enterprise plans, which are enterprise focused strategies that are the result of a refresh and refocus of the regional action plans for jobs to ensure their relevance and impact to 2020. The refreshed north-west regional enterprise plan to 2020 was launched on 25 February 2019.
In 2018 companies supported by Enterprise Ireland in Sligo employed 1,917 people, a 7% increase on the 2017 employment figure. Enterprise Ireland is actively working with companies in Sligo with global ambitions to drive competitiveness, innovation and market diversification. In 2018 there were record growth levels in employment in every region which saw 61% of employment growth occurring outside Dublin, bringing total employment in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in the regions to 64%, another record high.
Enterprise Ireland also works with the institutes of technology, ITs, to support entrepreneurship in the regions. A total of seven new companies in IT Sligo recently participated in the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme. It is expected that they will progress to either Enterprise Ireland or local enterprise offices for further support and development.