Thursday, 9 February 2006
Batt O'Keeffe (Minister of State with special responsibility for Housing, Urban Renewal and Developing Areas, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
IDA Ireland has assured the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment that it is committed to the development of County Carlow and is actively promoting Carlow town for new foreign investment in international services and high-value manufacturing activities. IDA Ireland has invested almost €11.5 million to date in developing the Carlow business and technology park on the Dublin Road. Following receipt of planning permission, the development of a 17,000 sq. ft. advance office building with 100% expansion capability was completed in November 2005. The agency is already actively marketing the building and the technology park through its network of overseas offices. The Minister understands from IDA Ireland that to date a total of six site visits to the park have taken place and discussions are ongoing with a number of these companies.
In addition to actively promoting County Carlow for new foreign investment, IDA Ireland is actively working with its existing portfolio of supported companies in County Carlow to encourage them to grow and to expand their range of activities here. The agency believes Carlow has a number of the ingredients necessary to be attractive to overseas investors. For example, it has an existing base of five overseas businesses, a first-class institute of technology, a growing population and a high-quality of life. Carlow is also within reasonable proximity of Dublin and its international airport.
Enterprise Ireland activity is focused on creating new jobs by supporting entrepreneurs to set up new high-potential start-up companies. It is also focused on the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and on enhancing innovation capability through support for research in companies and third level institutions.
Enterprise Ireland assists companies in its portfolio to grow their sales and exports and to improve innovation in order that they can compete on world markets. During the past three years Enterprise Ireland approved support of over €5.3 million and made payments of over €3.5 million for manufacturing industry in County Carlow. This investment was in areas such as research and development, capability building and process development. The Minister also understands that the agency has approved €1.42 million for the construction of a campus innovation centre at Carlow Institute of Technology and an additional €156,000 for the management of the centre. As construction work on the centre is now complete, the first tenants will be in a position to move into the centre in the nearfuture.
Enterprise Ireland has also approved €200,000 for the construction of the 7,500 sq. ft. community enterprise centre in O'Brien Road, Carlow, that opened in December 2004. Enterprise Ireland believes the development of community-based enterprise centres is a crucial part of the drive to create new regional enterprises. Carlow County Enterprise Board has relocated its offices to the centre and five new enterprises have started there. An additional two units are available for letting and we hope the building will be fully occupied shortly.
Carlow County Enterprise Board was established in 1993 to provide a source of support for small businesses with ten employees or fewer. The function of the board is to develop indigenous enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity within County Carlow. The board provides a single point of contact at local level for new and established small businesses. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, enterprises may qualify for support from the board primarily in the form of capital and feasibility grants.
During 2005, Carlow CEB paid €291,829 in grant aid to 21 projects and assisted in the creation of 60 net jobs in grant-aided companies in the Carlow area. The board also trained 564 people in small business skills and provided professional mentoring to 83 clients. The Minister understands the board's networking seminars, including the Women in Business Network, recorded attendances of 371. Such seminars provide local businesses with the opportunity to discuss and seek advice on issues relevant to them.
The Minister understands a steering committee has been established, comprising nominees from Carlow County Council, Enterprise Ireland, Carlow County Enterprise Board, Teagasc's Oak Park Research Centre, IT Carlow and the private sector. The objective of the group is to explore opportunities for Carlow as a centre for agribusiness/biotechnology, with regard to the existing capabilities in crop and food development, life sciences, biometrics and biofuels. A feasibility study supported by Carlow CEB to assess the opportunities for Carlow was commissioned and its recommendations are currently being considered.
The Minister is confident that the strategies and policies being pursued by the development agencies in Carlow, together with the ongoing commitment of the Government to regional development, will bear fruit by providing additional sustainable investment and jobs for the people of Carlow.