Wednesday, 18 April 2018
Action Plan for Jobs
28. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps being taken by IDA Ireland to support job creation in the regions, particularly in County Carlow and the south-east region; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16185/18]
What steps are the Minister and IDA Ireland taking to support job creation, particularly in the south-east region and, more specifically still, County Carlow? There is potential for a technological university for the south east and a long-standing promise to provide an advanced facility. When will the facility go ahead? I have asked a number of questions about it in the last period, but the date has been pushed out time and again. If we could get a definite answer and find out exactly what IDA Ireland is doing to support job creation in County Carlow, I would be grateful.
I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. The Government is committed to supporting job creation in the regions. My Department and its agencies are working towards ambitious targets to ensure employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country. This includes County Carlow which is marketed by IDA Ireland as part of the south-east region. The employment situation in the south east which also covers Waterford, Wexford, Kilkenny and south Tipperary has been improving steadily in recent years. Key to this has been the South-East Action Plan for Jobs which was launched in September 2015. I met the people involved with the plan only last Monday. The action plan places a heavy focus on employment growth, with a target of creating 25,000 extra positions for the area. To date, 16,200 jobs have been created, which represents significant progress towards achieving the set target. IDA Ireland client companies in the south east created 1,200 new jobs last year alone, which brought total employment in overseas companies in the region to 14,785 across 75 client companies.
Looking ahead, IDA Ireland will continue to work with its clients to identify opportunities for new investment or expansion in the south east. In doing so the agency will draw the attention of investors to the region's particular strengths which include the south east's accessibility, ports and existing cluster of medical technology firms. The agency is also working closely with its existing clients in the region to help to strengthen and potentially grow their respective workforces. In addition, the agency is investing in property solutions to drive the growth of foreign direct investment in the region. IDA Ireland's €150 million regional property programme includes the construction of nine new advance facilities throughout the country, one of which will be located in Carlow. The building is at design stage, with the aim of having it completed in 2019.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
While more work remains to be done in the wider south-east region, the overall employment trend in the area is positive. My Department and its agencies will continue to do their utmost to ensure further progress is made in the creation of more jobs and attracting further foreign direct investment.
I thank the Minster for her reply which is encouraging. I do not want to paint the picture that nothing is happening in the area where MSD has created up to 800 jobs and Netwatch, a new indigenous company, employs approximately 200 people. I was keen to listen to what the Minister had to say about the strengths of different areas. There is potential in the south east for the new technological university, of which Institute of Technology, Carlow will be a key part. The property solutions and advance facility to which the Minister referred need to come on stream at the earliest possible date. We need facilities to cater for the graduates of the university in the future. An advance facility was available to MSD when it came on site originally. The original plan was that a number of companies would be attracted to the site, but MSD took over the entire facility and now employs over 800 people, which is hugely beneficial to the area.
As the Deputy said, last year MSD announced the creation of 330 new jobs and an investment of €280 million in the next three years at two of its manufacturing sites in Carlow and Cork. As part of this investment, the company will create a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Carlow, with 120 new roles. It will be the company's first stand-alone vaccines and biologics facility outside the USA. This significant investment in the county will assist IDA Ireland in its efforts to attract further investment. In 2017 Waters Corporation opened a new site expansion at its state-of-the-art manufacturing and assembly facilities in Wexford. Since commencing operations in 1997, this science technology company has seen continuous and sustained growth. Over 300 people are employed in the 145,000 sq. ft. facility manufacturing various devices.
There was a major setback in the county a number of years ago when the sugar industry was closed in Carlow. At the same time, the Braun manufacturing facility closed. At their peak, these industries employed approximately 1,100 to 1,200 people. While Merck Sharp & Dohme has come on stream since, those jobs have not been replaced. While there are jobs at the lower end of the employment spectrum, facilities must be established in the area to replace what was provided in the past. The promised advance facility would be key in finding replacements for these jobs. It must come on stream soon to tie in with the prospective establishment of a technological university in the south east. It is important that they come on stream at the same time. I am disappointed that we are talking about the end of 2019 for the provision of the advance facility which initially was supposed to be in place at the end of 2018 . It has now been pushed out by another year. I would like to see a little more progress in the near future.
Of course, we want to see more foreign direct investment in Carlow and the surrounding area, as we do in all regions. That is what IDA Ireland's regional property programme has been designed to do. It seeks to encourage investors to locate outside the main urban areas. I accept that there have been delays in identifying a site in Carlow, but I understand from IDA Ireland that the issues have been largely resolved. The project is at design stage and it is aimed to complete it by quarter 2 of 2019. As the Deputy well knows, having raised the matter with me on many occasions, the advance facility will be a major asset for Carlow and the south-east region generally. It will build on recent successes in the county such as the announcement made by MSD. That is the kind of investment I want to see in counties like Carlow and across rural Ireland. I have no doubt that the Deputy will continue to remind me of the importance of these matters.