Wednesday, 9 October 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
IDA Ireland Site Visits
7. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the most recent update on regional IDA site visits per county and vacant IDA properties nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41111/19]
I ask the Minister to provide the House with the most recent update on regional IDA visits per county and the number of vacant IDA properties which are available nationwide. What actions are being taken to try to attract business into these vacant IDA properties? What concrete actions are being taken to attract businesses to regions which currently do not have foreign direct investment.?
Regional development remains a key priority for me and my 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, highly positive that significant progress has already been made towards that objective. For example, 58% of all IDA client-supported employment is now situated outside of Dublin. This figure represents the highest level of regional employment in the history of the agency and reflects the significant energy and resources invested into supporting regional development. We will be seeking to increase that number again in 2020.
As I have previously made clear, the availability of marketable serviced land and buildings in advance of demand is a key element in the IDA's ability to compete for mobile foreign direct investment. Not only does such a supply of properties help the agency to secure high quality jobs but it also allows projects to begin at an earlier date by diminishing difficulties associated with land acquisition, planning and construction. It therefore remains an important means by which the IDA can encourage and attract new investors to regional Ireland. If such properties were not available to potential investors, it would decrease the likelihood that regional areas would be selected by overseas firms ahead of urban locations.
The IDA currently owns 27 properties across Ireland. Of these, 14 are occupied by agency clients with the remainder available for prospective or existing clients.
As regards site visits, they do remain an important means by which the IDA can showcase regional locations to prospective investors. At the same time, we must recognise that the final decision as to where to invest always rests with the firm concerned. It is also the case, no matter what efforts we make to underline the undoubted benefits of regional locations, that certain overseas companies will only consider investing in larger urban areas for various commercial or operational reasons.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Details on the number of site visits to individual counties, from 2018 until the second quarter of this year, are set out in the table. Information on site visits in quarter three of 2019 are not yet available.
|County||2018||Q1 and Q2 2019|
I do not doubt the Minister's personal commitment to regional development. She is from a Border county herself and understands first-hand the importance of regional development. When she talks about 58% of IDA visits being outside Dublin, she does not take out Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, along with the bigger urban areas, after which the figures are very different. IDA visits to regional areas are down to about 20%. I do not think that is good enough. I think there is still overconcentration on the larger urban areas. Being parochial, the IDA park in Marlinstown in Mullingar is a state of the art business park. It is 80 km, or 50 minutes, from Dublin city, port and airport. That lies vacant. We need to accelerate our efforts to attract inward investment to the regions so that we can ensure that people have an alternative-----
IDA Ireland had a record year last year and its half-year results this year are outstanding. More than 132,000 people are employed in 681 IDA client companies located outside Dublin. Some 56% of all new foreign direct investment jobs created last year were based in regional locations. I will give Deputy Troy some data on his own county. There are 21 IDA client companies in County Westmeath, employing 3,466 people. That represents an increase of 16% over last year, with 493 new jobs added. In 2009, when Fianna Fáil was in government, there were 1,983 people employed in IDA companies in Westmeath. That figure has nearly doubled by today, due to the policies and focus this Government is putting on job creation in the regions. In July 2018, Neueda Technologies, a privately owned IT training, development and consulting services company, headquartered in Belfast, announced plans to establish a software engineering hub in Athlone, County Westmeath, employing 200 staff over four years. There are a number of different companies involved. There are six IDA client companies based in County Longford, employing 900 people.
The fact of the matter is that attracting foreign direct investment is not just a hallmark of this Government but also of previous Governments. The 12.5% corporation tax is a unique asset for attracting foreign direct investment, but there are areas which are not benefiting. Athlone is doing quite well and we welcome that. It is lucky to have the Athlone Institute of Technology, a magnet to attract foreign direct investment towards the area. I cited the example of Mullingar Business Park, which was purchased by the IDA and predominantly lies empty. What will the Minister do for it? The IDA team does great work and no one detracts from that but there are areas which are blackspots and they need to be addressed. Some 93 out of 300 IDA properties remain vacant and that needs to be addressed.
IDA Ireland has been doing wonderful work. It certainly has a strong focus on the regions. There are of course areas where we want to see improvement. We launched the regional enterprise development plans to identify the positives and build on them, but also to identify the gaps and how to improve where we need to improve. That is why we have €60 million in the regional enterprise development fund that is currently being spent right across the country. Site visits are only one part of it but if a place does not have something to show IDA, it will struggle to get visits. IDA had the best year in 17 years for regional job creation. More people are employed in the regions than ever before. IDA works to try to get companies out of the city. The city is an attractive place for companies because there is clustering and a pool of talent. I do not agree that we have not had significant improvements in regional job creation, because we have.