Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
11. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of the IDA Ireland commitment to deliver an advanced building solution in Longford town before the end of 2024; if a site has been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52766/21]
Will the Minister comment on IDA Ireland's commitment to deliver an advanced building solution for Longford town before the end of 2024? Will he also indicate whether a site for the venture has been identified?
I was very pleased to visit Longford last week, where I was met by Deputy Flaherty, Senator Carrigy and the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke. The timely provision of appropriate and cost-effective property and infrastructure solutions to meet the needs of multinational companies thinking of investing in Ireland remains essential to winning foreign direct investment, FDI. Over the past five years, IDA Ireland’s regional property programme has enabled the winning of capital-intensive projects of significant scale to regional locations, county towns and other large towns that would not otherwise have received an investment.
The agency plans to provide 19 advanced building solutions, ABSs, in 15 locations throughout Ireland over the lifetime of its new strategy, which runs between now and 2024. "Advanced building solution" is a generic term used to describe the range of office, industrial and flexible building solutions being built under the IDA Ireland programme. These buildings offer high-quality production space and office accommodation within a landscaped business park and are designed to meet the requirements of the manufacturing, technology, life sciences and other prospective industries. In respect of the building in Longford, IDA Ireland is continuing to liaise with Longford County Council and wider stakeholders to seek a suitable site for the proposed ABS. The site selection process is ongoing.
IDA Ireland’s regional property programme, supported by my Department, will provide property and strategic site solutions to address market failures in regional locations. Under the regional development pillar, the agency aims to win investment to propel recovery and support development in each region, targeting 400 investments for locations outside Dublin by the end of 2024. It is actively encouraging investors to locate in all parts of the country, whether through marketing potential investment sites outside the main cities or working to develop recognised industry clusters.
I thank the Tánaiste for his reply. I am very pleased that an advanced building solution is now a Government priority for inward investment in County Longford, in line with similar comments from IDA Ireland. Ann-Marie Tierney-Le Roux, head of regional business development, told a recent meeting of Longford County Council that the agency is committed to developing a committed facility in Longford town. It is very much a case of build it and they will come.
The Tánaiste will agree that the challenge at the moment is to identify a site. Currently, we have in excess of 1,700 IDA Ireland-supported jobs in Longford town, thanks to Technimark, Avery Dennison and Abbott Diagnostics. The Abbott plant is a real success story, having just breached the 1,000 employees mark. The local authority owns lands in the vicinity of the Abbott site but the preference is that IDA Ireland would spread its net further and separately facilitate a possible future expansion for Abbott. I ask the Tánaiste to encourage IDA Ireland to be ambitious and cast its net wide in search of a site in Longford town.
Generally speaking, the regional property programme has been really successful where IDA Ireland identifies a site and is able to provide what it calls an advanced building solution, which I think is a terrible term. It is basically a building that can be used for many different purposes. We then find it is possible to get investment because there is a big difference between taking a potential investor or group of executives to see an empty park as opposed to one where there is a ready-made premises that can be occupied and adapted within a year or two. We have had really good success in this regard in Castlebar, Sligo and many different parts of the country, where we have got hundreds of jobs into towns. That is exactly what we want to do with Longford. We want to acquire a site, develop it and secure investment, thereby bringing jobs into the town and the increased spend that comes with that. Longford is very much on the priority list. I know the Deputy and Senator Carrigy will make sure we are held to delivery on that.
I agree that "advanced building solution" is not the best term. I am old enough to remember when we referred to such premises as advanced factories, which probably made more sense. It is very good that IDA Ireland is committed to such a facility for Longford but it would be a missed opportunity if we allowed it to take the easiest solution by simply acquiring the lands owned by the county council in the immediate vicinity of the Abbott site. What Longford really needs is to get the advanced building solution up and running before 2024 in order that we can actively market it. We hope that, in tandem, Abbott will expand its own operation on the lands that adjoin its property.
I know the Tánaiste had extensive discussions on this matter with local council officials last week and has undertaken to follow up with similar discussions with the CEO of IDA Ireland, Martin Shanahan, with a view to prioritising the securing of a site in Longford town. The message for IDA Ireland from Longford, which I am sure the Tánaiste will pass on for us, is that it needs to be ambitious for the town. There is a great opportunity for us to get an additional FDI facility. As I said, we have 1,700-plus FDI jobs at the moment. There is a real opportunity to attract more and I urge the Tánaiste to pursue that objective aggressively with IDA Ireland.
The acquisition of property by a State agency is not something that I, as Minister, can get too involved in as it would not be appropriate to do so. However, I certainly hear the case the Deputy is making for facilitating both the potential future expansion of the Abbott site and having an advanced business solution at another location. I know IDA Ireland is aware of the case for such an approach, but I will emphasise it to the agency.
In total, there are six IDA Ireland-supported companies in County Longford employing more than 1,000 people. That is a strong performance by the county in recent years. In addition, the State has been involved in Centre Parcs, which recently announced an €85 million expansion of its Longford forest facility. If we can add another substantial investment to that, we would be making good progress in the county.