Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Ceisteanna (48, 78)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

48. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the efforts she is making in conjunction with the IDA to secure foreign direct investment to rural parts of south County Kildare. [49752/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

78. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of recent activities by the IDA in County Kildare towards job creation and attracting new industry to the area; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50044/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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

The Government's national planning framework and Project Ireland 2040 focus on making our counties, including Kildare, better places to live in, to work and to visit. In that context, what is the status of recent activity by IDA Ireland in County Kildare towards job creation and attracting new industry to our area so that we can provide more local employment opportunities for Kildare residents?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 78 together.

Regional development remains a key priority for the Department. We understand the importance of achieving the best possible spread of employment and investment across the country and my Department and its agencies have been working hard towards that goal. That will remain the case in 2020 and beyond.

It is therefore very positive that significant progress has already been made towards that objective. For example, 58% of all IDA Ireland client-supported employment is now situated outside Dublin. This figure represents the highest level of regional employment in the history of IDA Ireland and reflects the significant energy and resources invested in supporting regional development. We will seek to increase that number in 2020.

IDA Ireland continues to draw the attention of investors looking to locate in Kildare to every part of that county. There are 29 IDA Ireland-supported client companies in County Kildare, which collectively employ almost 8,900 people. This represents an increase of 4.5% over 2018 and I expect the final results for 2019 will show further employment growth. The county has a strong contingent of overseas firms in the technology, financial services and pharmaceuticals sectors. IDA Ireland clients such as Intel and Procter and Gamble are located in Kildare and continue to perform very well.

IDA Ireland's efforts to increase foreign direct investment, FDI, in Kildare is strengthened by the presence of Maynooth University. The university has been involved in a number of research projects with IDA Ireland client companies. The Hamilton Institute is a world leading research unit in ICT with a focus on drones, artificial intelligence and robotics and the Innovation Value Institute has been co-developed with Intel.

County Kildare remains a very attractive area in which to invest. We welcome the recent decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission to Intel for its proposed new €3.6 billion manufacturing fabrication, FAB, facility at Leixlip. This planning permission comes three years after Intel secured planning permission for the first phase of the FAB facility investment which was also valued at €3.6 billion. In total, these represent a €7.2 billion investment which will employ 6,000 construction workers at the peak of its development and 1,600 jobs on completion. This high calibre investment reflects Kildare's significant potential and we will be working hard to attract further investment from overseas companies to the county.

While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities, the Government remains determined to achieve more. That is why we are continuing to unlock the further future economic development of the county.

I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response. He is correct that many positive things are happening in Kildare around employment. As a Kildare South TD I must point out that most of that activity is in the northern end of the county which is closer to the Dublin metropolitan area. I want to see opportunities for people in south Kildare. The 2016 census data highlighted that Kildare has the sixth highest level of outbound commuters in the State at 39%.

According to the census, 31,710 Kildare residents are employed in the Dublin metropolitan area and, according to interim results from Kildare County Council's commuter survey, Kildare commuters spend, on average, one hour and nine minutes getting to and from work each day. Over 12% of commuters spend between one and a half and two hours going to and from work each day.

I want to see more plentiful opportunities for these people and I raise this matter in the context of seeking better job opportunities for my constituents in south Kildare. I welcome the decision of IDA Ireland to purchase a significant landbank at Little Connell outside Newbridge. This 111-acre site is a really exciting prospect for us and the Minister of State might outline the next steps for IDA Ireland in trying to promote the landbank and the employment opportunities for Kildare residents.

I thank the Deputy, who has been lobbying the Minister and me for more jobs into the Kildare region. I can confirm that IDA Ireland recently acquired a landbank measuring 85.5 ha. at Newbridge, County Kildare. The acquisition was a unique opportunity for IDA Ireland to acquire a strategic landbank of scale with the benefit of current and ongoing infrastructure delivery aligning with the organisational objectives of delivering high-quality property solutions for future industrial development needs to both FDI and indigenous enterprises. The location and availability of the new strategic landbank in the mid-east region will assist in enhancing the regional spread of FDI.

The site in Kildare is a very attractive option for potential IDA Ireland clients, given the close proximity to Dublin city centre, Dublin airport and the port tunnel. The M7 motorway provides access to Cork, Limerick and Waterford, and Newbridge would be a central location for companies to work with key clients at these locations. The proximity of the wider eastern-based third level ecosystem and talent pool would also be attractive to client companies. Mixed-used opportunities could be attractive for collaboration and diversity of activity, including digital services, which we mentioned, and manufacturing. Small companies could be clustered around large life science players in the region. It is really good news for the region and I know the Deputy will welcome it.

I very much welcome this really important news, although the next steps are crucial. For many years, Kildare has lacked a strategic landbank that we could advertise and sell to FDI and even indigenous Irish companies with significant employment opportunities. We have looked with envy across our border at South Dublin County Council and Greenogue, as well as Carlow's MSD plant. They create plenty of employment for our residents in Kildare but we want those opportunities. This significant investment by IDA Ireland, using State funds to buy this landbank, is absolutely crucial to us.

The Minister of State is correct that this comes on the back of strategic investment by the Government in the upgrading of the M7 motorway, which cost €110 million, and the expansion of the Newbridge interceptor sewer. The Barrow abstraction scheme will give us a secure supply of water. We need a second bridge for Newbridge, which will help alleviate our traffic congestion problems in the town. The greatest asset we have, beyond all those pieces of infrastructure that have seen investment by the Government, is our residents in Kildare South, who are skilled and well-educated. They do not want to be stuck on the M7 and M50 commuting back and forth. We want that improved quality of life. Will the Minister of State encourage his Department and IDA Ireland to work directly with Kildare County Council, the local enterprise office and us as local public representatives to market this site and get the investment into Kildare as soon as possible?

These are two pieces of good news for Deputy Heydon's constituency this week. The first is the decision of An Bord Pleanála on the Intel application. It is an innovative industry and Intel is a fantastic multinational company to have in the region. The availability of market servicing land and building in advance of demand remains a key element of IDA Ireland's ability to compete for mobile FDI. Not only does such a supply of properties help the agency to secure significant investment but it also allows projects to begin much earlier, as it diminishes the difficulties associated with land acquisition of a greenfield site, planning and construction. These are really important issues, particularly when we are trying to attract companies to Ireland. It is positive to have this in place for a company. One does not want matters associated with planning if looking at a site that has not yet been zoned. The Intel news and the announcement relating to the landbank will be great for County Kildare. I am sure there will be further investment in the region as we continue to attract FDI.

Question No. 49 replied to with Written Answers.