Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions my top priority. I want to have a situation where all regions are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic recovery and growth.
Since Q1 2015, when the Regional Action Plans for Jobs (RAPJs) commenced there has been an increase of 312,500 people in employment across the State as at Q3 2019, with an additional 195,600 people living in the regions outside of Co. Dublin entering employment in that period. That is over 62% - or almost 3 out of every 5 jobs created.
During February and March this year, I launched nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020. The principle behind the Regional Enterprise Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential. These stakeholders include: Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’, the Higher Education Institutes and others.
These Plans continue the focus on delivering a 10 to 15 per cent employment uplift in each region by 2020 (from Q1 2015), and the unemployment rate of each region reduced to not more than one percentage point above the national average.
I introduced the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) in 2017 to support the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects to sustain and add to employment at county, regional and national level. To date, the REDF has been delivered through two competitive calls, and a total of 42 projects across all regions have together secured just under €60 million.
I announced a further €45 million Call 3 of the REDF in June this year and I expect to be able to announce the successful projects following the completion of the competitive evaluation process by Enterprise Ireland by the end of this year or shortly thereafter.
Enterprise Ireland provides advice and support to indigenous companies all over the country. In addition, through the network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices in every county, 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. Across the 31 LEOs around the country, 3,656 new jobs were supported in 2018 of which almost 80% were located outside of Co. Dublin.
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, with 61% of new jobs created in 2018 outside Dublin. Currently, 64% of all Enterprise Ireland supported employment is located outside of Dublin.
Earlier this year Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Strategy “Powering the Regions” was launched with a focus on the delivery of key regional initiatives including:
- Increasing productivity and resilience to optimise growth opportunities;
- Collaborate in the growth of microenterprises, HPSUs, female entrepreneurship;
- Optimise enterprise growth in cities, urban and rural locations;
- Support the development of co-working and incubation spaces;
- Implement an initiative on second-site locations in the regions; and
- Deliver a collaborative strategy to deliver Food Direct Investment in the regions.
As regards attracting Foreign Direct Investment in the past year (2018) 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. Furthermore, 56% of all net new FDI jobs created last year were based in regional locations which represents more IDA jobs added in the regions than at any time over the past 17 years. At the end of 2018, 58% of all IDA supported employment was located outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed by IDA clients outside of Dublin in the history of the organisation.
Attracting FDI to regional areas is not without its challenges 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. The IDA plans to develop new buildings in regional locations including Carlow, Dundalk, Monaghan, Sligo, Athlone, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.
Finally, 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.