Seanad debates

Wednesday, 17 December 2003

Adjournment Matters. - Job Creation.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O'Malley, and I welcome Councillor Hilary Quinlan of Waterford, who is in the Visitors Gallery.

Mr. Browne: I ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment what progress has been made in securing replacement jobs in the Carlow area. Unfortunately, we have seen a steady decline in jobs in the Carlow area in recent months and almost every week we hear of small scale job losses. We lost 83 places on the community employment scheme in the last year, while Comerama, a factory in Castlecomer, has lost almost 200 jobs. We suffered job losses in Athy in Peerless Rugs two or three years ago and we lost jobs in Braun in July 2002. Recently we were also informed that the very successful Trek factory in Carlow is to move operations to eastern Germany.

I can remember no new major industry coming to Carlow. I was born in 1973, which was the last time the IDA brought a major industry to Carlow of the likes of Braun and Lapple. While we have a new IDA business park, at present all we have in it is a beautiful fountain and, more recently, two caravans. People in Carlow are very disappointed that things are not going to plan and they are baffled because they feel they have everything in Carlow. We are both far enough from and near enough to Dublin and we have schools, recreational facilities and other assets for quality of life, which is why Carlow was so successful in the decentralisation process, getting the headquarters of Teagasc and a Department.

While I welcome the news on decentralisation, we need new industry in Carlow because with decentralisation one is merely relocating existing personnel and jobs. One is not creating new jobs and there is a crying need in Carlow to secure jobs for graduates. I was amazed to learn recently that only 7% of Carlow IT graduates go on to work in Carlow. I do not expect 100% of Carlow IT graduates to stay in Carlow but I would like to see a higher percentage having the opportunity to do so if that is what they wish, instead of being forced to move to larger cities or abroad. The job losses in the Castlecomer area, Athy, Carlow town, rural Carlow and from the community employment scheme add to the difficulty of getting replacement jobs.

I compliment the county enterprise board, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this week, on the work it has done in this area and its success in encouraging much small indigenous industry in Carlow. I want this Government to prioritise Carlow for future IDA-funded plants. Recently, we saw eBay being pushed towards Athlone although it ended up going to Blanchardstown. I would like to see a similar company or one such as Intel coming to Carlow. We have seen the positive effect Intel has had in Kildare since it was set up. We need something similar in Carlow.

We have a fantastic site available on the outskirts of Carlow town and the new N9 motorway from Kilcullen to Waterford will provide excellent transport facilities. Carlow also has enhanced rail facilities which make it attractive as a commuter town. It has the necessary infrastructure in terms of schools and while it may lack facilities in the health services area, there are plans for a private hospital. The Minister of State may be able to expand tonight on the health strategy proposal for three health diagnostic centres in the country. Hopefully, one of those will come to Carlow which is the only county without a general hospital. If we get that, Carlow will have everything to offer prospective employers and employees.

I look forward to the Minister of State's reply. I hope the Government will market Carlow and attract high-skill jobs and companies such as commercial banks, which will provide jobs for graduates.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O'Malley): The Tánaiste would like to thank the Senator for raising this matter on the Adjournment.

The Tánaiste is conscious of the adverse effects on workers in the Carlow area of job losses over the past year, including redundancies at Braun and the recent announcement by Trek Europe of its decision to cease bicycle production, early in 2004, with the loss of some 45 jobs.

Carlow town is being targeted by IDA Ireland as a location of choice in the south-east region for foreign direct investment. This is in line with the IDA strategy of achieving balanced regional distribution to the larger urban locations. The commitment by the agency to this goal is evidenced by the development of a flagship business and technology park in Carlow town. It is intended that any future overseas investment for Carlow town will be located on the 70 acre park. IDA Ireland continues to actively market Carlow town and the new business and technology park through its overseas marketing programme. This programme will continue in 2004.

Carlow is ideally poised for investment across sectors. While continuing to be an attractive location for the engineering industry, it is planned that Carlow will advance as a cluster for both the international and financial services sectors. This, coupled with the recent improvements in road access to Dublin Airport and the growing reputation of Carlow Institute of Technology, will position Carlow well for additional inward investment. Furthermore, the new €5 million research centre for biotechnology, recently opened by Teagasc in Carlow, employing up to 30 PhD students, will serve as an attraction.

The major decentralisation package announced in the budget recently includes 350 jobs to be relocated to Carlow. These include 250 jobs from the Tánaiste's Department and 100 from Teagasc. This move demonstrates the Government's commitment to balanced regional development and will provide a further boost to enterprise development in the Carlow area.

Enterprise Ireland works with local communities in creating the business infrastructure to foster new business start-ups. In that context the county's first community enterprise centre, an initiative funded under the community enterprise scheme, will assist in the incubation of business start-ups and consequent job creation and will be available for occupation in September 2004.

It is essential for balanced development that all other sources of employment, including Irish and overseas industries, small business and tourism, are promoted actively. This is fully recognised in the strategy plan as developed by the Carlow County Development Board within which all the relevant State agencies are actively involved. IDA and Enterprise Ireland and the county enterprise board continue to work closely with Carlow County Council on the development of a marketing strategy for the future promotion of Carlow town. This existing co-operative framework can be used effectively and efficiently to deal with job losses and job creation in the area.

FÁS, the national training authority, is playing an important role in assessing and providing training and re-training for workers affected by plant closures or downsizing and has been very active in the Carlow area. The Government's commitment to regional development is stronger than ever and is determined to see the emergence of strong magnets of attraction such as Carlow. For successful development, each region must have clear competitive reasons why companies should locate there rather than elsewhere.

The Tánaiste is satisfied that the combined efforts of the State development agencies under the aegis of her Department, as well as the ongoing commitment of the Government to regional development, including the recently announced decentralisation programme, should facilitate the economic development of the Carlow area.