Thursday, 15 September 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
8. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is supportive of the industrial hub around Shannon Airport being a base for major parcel distribution and transiting centres; and if his Department has made any effort in attracting large multinationals in this sector to the region. [45168/22]
I wish to ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he is supportive of the industrial hub around Shannon Airport being a base for major parcel distribution and transiting centres and, specifically, if his Department has made any particular efforts in attracting large multinationals from this sector to the Shannon Airport and wider mid-west region.
I thank Deputy Crowe for the question.
Shannon Airport is a really important infrastructure asset for foreign direct investment, FDI, and indigenous enterprise in Ireland.
As part of IDA Ireland's current strategy, it is proposed to target 76 new investments for the mid-west region in the period between now and 2024. The FDI performance in the region has been consistent over the past five years with employment by IDA Ireland clients increasing by almost 30%.
The mid-west is now recognised as a global cluster location of choice for advanced manufacturing, including both life science and semiconductor manufacturing multinationals. With the completion of the Advanced Manufacturing Centre in the National Technology Park this value proposition is further enhanced.
Additionally, the Future Mobility Campus Ireland based in the Shannon Free Zone, which I had the pleasure to visit a few months ago, is home to several existing IDA Ireland clients with activities linked to smart mobility. The continued development of the connected and autonomous mobility sector is positive with great companies, such as General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, and recent investments from Exida and Renovo benefitting the mid-west region.
IDA Ireland will continue to engage with multinational online selling and distribution companies as part of their strategy to attract investment. Several IDA Ireland client companies manage supply chain and distribution from Ireland already, including DHL and DB Schenker which have operations in Shannon.
The mid-west has also developed a strong professional services and technology ecosystem including companies like Dell, Extreme Networks, Fiserv, IQEQ and Waystone.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Shannon Estuary Economic Taskforce was formally established on 21 April 2022 following an open expression of interest. We have our regional enterprise plan for the region as well.
The work programme for the task force is focused on an assessment of the strategic strengths and potential areas of opportunity for the Shannon Estuary across four sectors, including transport, logistics and connectivity, which is the matter the Deputy is raising. This strand is looking at interconnectivity, sustainable transport, innovation and development, and alternative fuel sources such as synthetic aviation fuels, as well as the potential for the Shannon Estuary region to be developed as a logistical hub, serving not just the region but the entire country.
We were happy in the summer to see the Tánaiste down at the future mobility hub. Shannon and the mid-west is only scratching the surface of its potential there.
Many people are shocked in Ireland to discover that only 1% of cargo leaves our country via the air. Given the number of planes that crisscross this country every day, we are uniquely geographically positioned between Europe and the United States. We have so many natural advantages and we should be capitalising on that.
Luxembourg has Cargolux. It is a small country but, minute though it might be, it is a world leader in terms of Cargolux and getting cargo shipments throughout the world.
I look with envy every time I pass Baldonnell in Dublin. The new Amazon facility there of 58,000 sq. ft. employs 500 people. Only two weeks ago, it shipped out its first parcels from its Ireland facility. There are 30 of these facilities in the UK. It is inevitable that Amazon will want more facilities in Ireland. We would like to know, I suppose, specifically, has the Tánaiste advanced proposals for it to locate in Shannon Airport, particularly given the new facility that will soon be built there for cargo handling and shipment.
I very much share the Deputy's vision and aspiration for what we can do in Shannon into the future. The zone around the airport has been an enormous success in the past couple of years. There has been a huge increase in employment, and the quality of employment, there as well. For the airport itself, it is always a bit more of a struggle but we all want to see passengers numbers increase. I was pleased to engage with Deputy Carey, as head of the airport group, and to see also that the flights to Paris have resumed, which is really positive news as well.
Luxembourg is a little different. One should bear in mind that if a plane lands with a cargo in Luxembourg, it can be transshipped by road or rail to almost anywhere in Europe. That is not the case for Ireland. If something lands in Dublin or Shannon and is taken off the plane, it has to be put back on a ship to get to Europe. It is a different proposition in Luxembourg. However, when it comes to air transshipment, there is a great deal of potential in Shannon going from one plane to another. There is a great deal of space there as well and very few objections to development, which is really important too. We have had some discussions and conversations with particular companies involved in this space. I cannot get into the detail of them here. I might be able to talk to the Deputy off-line. We are pursuing a number of opportunities.
Some months ago, permission was granted to Shannon Group to construct a new air cargo hub logistics facility at Rineanna South, Shannon. This will be a massive facility. It is right by the runway. It is perfectly positioned to receive transit cargo and take it worldwide. We really want to see this happen. I am sure there is a tenant in mind for this. We would love to see Amazon there. I would imagine every Deputy in this House has the Amazon app on his or her phone. It is how people shop these days. A pair of jeans comes in from the UK. Tops come in from America. There are Prime vans on every road in Ireland in the mornings but we really need a second facility. The facility in Dublin is fantastic but Shannon still has huge advantages over Dublin. In spite of the new runway opening in Dublin in August last, we still have Ireland's longest runway. We have incredible hangarage. We are uniquely positioned, as I say, as a stepping stone to the United States and the European Union. With Brexit having happened and with all its woes, Shannon and the mid-west are positioned perfectly for a new cargo facility. Let us not get to the point in 12 months' time where we are still talking about 1% of air cargo leaving Ireland. We need to increase that. It is far more sustainable in terms of shipping things worldwide.
The Government decision over a decade ago to establish the Shannon Group led to a transformational change in the Shannon Free Zone itself. I look forward to the official opening of MeiraGTx tomorrow by the Taoiseach. It is a progressive company. It is a real example of what has been done in Shannon over the past decade.
Many of those firms have been in touch with me in relation to the question of energy, the issue of blackouts and the Government message around that. They are looking for assurances around this question of how will the Government deal with it and I would like the Tánaiste to give some assurance to those companies that provide so much employment in the mid-west on our policy in that regard.
I thank the Deputies again for their questions. I must confess, I do not have the Amazon app on my phone. I use Amazon from time to time and have nothing against it but I like to support local too and, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, will try to buy as much as I can in retailers in west and central Dublin. I know that Deputy Carey is a big supporter of local businesses in Clare as well.
I am familiar with the plans Shannon Group has. They are really exciting. I can certainly say to the Deputy, without giving away any commercially sensitive information, that the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Shannon Group stand ready to incentivise any large company that may want to make use of that facility. We are definitely working on that.
As for Deputy Carey's question about energy security, we anticipate that the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, will publish in the coming days, if not in the next week or so, the analysis that has been done on energy security in Ireland. It is largely favourable. We are fortunate in Ireland in that we do not rely on gas from Russia and that we have two other ways to bring gas into the country, that is, from the Corrib field and across the two interconnectors from the UK. However, I share Deputy Carey's view that having gas storage and another way to get gas into the country, whether through Cork or Ballylongford, but having a different source of gas should something go wrong with the UK interconnectors, makes a lot of sense.