Seanad debates

Wednesday, 23 June 2004

6:00 pm

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this matter for debate on the Adjournment. I also thank the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Fahey, for attending the House.

I raised the issue of industrial investment in east Galway last week. As a Galway man, the Minister of State is aware of the difficulties being experienced in some of the county towns. Major towns in particular have lost significant employment in recent years, notably Ballinasloe where two major companies AT Cross and Square D closed within a short period. Since the closure of the sugar factory in Tuam, the town has not attracted a major flagship industry. Other towns such as Loughrea also need additional employment.

I am aware the Government has included Loughrea and Ballinasloe as locations for the decentralisation programme. The decisions to transfer the National Safety Council to Loughrea and the National Roads Authority and the Railway Safety Commission to Ballinasloe have been welcomed by the people of the towns and east Galway in general. Tuam, which has been designated a hub town under the national spatial strategy, was not selected as a location for decentralisation, which is an even greater reason the Government should consider employment for the town a priority.

Many area development companies, development associations and community councils in the towns I have mentioned have proposed plans for the investment we need. The IDA has played an important role in arranging visits to the towns by industrialists to see their needs and considerable attractions. I ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, a native of County Galway, to continue her efforts to ensure towns in the county are given priority. I am aware of her personal involvement in arranging some of the visits by industrialists and entrepreneurs to the towns. In light of the positive developments in investment recently, I hope County Galway will be given priority for the industrial development its towns need.

Photo of Frank FaheyFrank Fahey (Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senator for raising this matter on the Adjournment. The Tánaiste regrets she cannot be present this evening but as a Galway man I am delighted to take her place in the debate.

I wish to address the issue of industrial investment in east Galway by outlining the work of IDA Ireland with regard to foreign direct investment, Enterprise Ireland with regard to assisting indigenous enterprise and the Galway County Enterprise Board, which works with micro-enterprise businesses.

Attracting foreign direct investment is primarily the responsibility of IDA Ireland, which is committed to the development of County Galway and actively promoting it for new foreign investment. Competition for mobile foreign direct investment continues to intensify. Ireland will continue to win and be a major location for inward investment in Europe, despite no longer being a low labour cost environment.

The fast paced, globally networked economy is changing the rules of competition, resulting in significant growth in global location options for companies. The combination of technology, worldwide improvements in telecommunications, international access and newer business models has changed the investment types for which IDA Ireland must compete. Typically, these projects are moving away from low cost, labour intensive manufacturing to more advanced and sophisticated activities both in manufacturing and services, requiring high skills levels and creating more high value products and services.

IDA Ireland is investing significantly in the provision of planned and focused property solutions in the west. Specifically, it is developing world class business and technology parks at a number of towns throughout the west, including Ballinasloe. The goal is to ensure these locations have the appropriate property solutions, tailored to specific key sectoral targets, to attract inward investments.

The IDA has acquired 35 acres of land at Creagh, east Ballinasloe, and has developed it as a new business and technology park. It has also co-operated closely with local private developers to construct a 27,000 sq. ft. advance technology building and has been successful in convincing Valois, a French engineering company, to establish a manufacturing operation in this facility. Total investment in the park to date is approximately €2.5 million.

Furthermore, a site has been provided to the ESB for the construction of a 38KV station to satisfy the electricity needs of new projects locating in the park. The construction of a second advance technology building in the park is underway and the expected completion date is the first quarter of 2005.

Site development has been completed on a new 27 acre IDA business and technology park on the Dunmore Road in Tuam. Advance planning permission has been received for the construction of a 24,000 sq. ft. technology facility. Due to changing client requirements, the IDA will shortly engage a consultant to redesign the building. The park, which is of a high standard, will play a key role in attracting FDI to Tuam, a designated hub town under the national spatial strategy.

Significant effort is also being made with regard to indigenous enterprise. Enterprise Ireland works with companies in its portfolio to assist them grow their sales and exports and improve innovation so that they can compete in world markets. Enterprise Ireland provides preferential funding for companies with detailed export plans which are expanding or establishing a business in the county. During 2002 and 2003 Enterprise Ireland approved more than €10 million to clients in County Galway, of which €2.3 million was approved for clients in east Galway. Payments made in the same period included more than €7 million for County Galway, of which €2.7 million was paid to client companies in east Galway.

EI infrastructural projects include the community enterprise centres and incubation facilities in the colleges. Under its community enterprise programme, Enterprise Ireland works with the local business community to develop business space for micro enterprises, thus enhancing development in the county and in the region. To date, Enterprise Ireland has approved funding to four community groups in east Galway to develop community enterprise centres — Tuam, €240,000; Dunmore, €88,000; Clonberne, €120,000; and Ballinasloe, €123,000 in capital and €38,000 for a centre manager.

Incubation centres in the colleges support the development and expansion of campus company activity and also encourage and support the commercialisation of research and development carried out in the colleges, thus embedding the third level institutes as major supports for the development of high technology companies in the regions. In proximity to east Galway, to date EI has approved €2.6 million for the development of campus incubator units at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology in Galway and €895,000 for units in the National University of Ireland, Galway. A sum of €2.54 million has also been approved by Enterprise Ireland for the development of units at the Athlone Institute of Technology.

Other initiatives involving the colleges include the fostering of industry-third level partnerships in the regions to encourage companies to adopt new technologies and to move up the value chain. Since January 2003 Enterprise Ireland has approved more than €3 million and paid €3.8 million in support of such projects in County Galway.

Furthermore, under the national development plan, Enterprise Ireland has committed €95 million to 15 seed and venture capital funds, which will leverage an estimated €400 million for investment in start-up and early stage businesses. The key objectives of the funds are to continue to develop the seed and early stage venture capital industry for SMEs in Ireland, encourage investment in sectors difficult to finance, for example, biotechnology, and to encompass a wider geographical perspective by encouraging regionally based funds.

Enterprise Equity Limited, a joint venture seed capital fund between the International Fund for Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, has expanded its office network to Galway with a view to developing and providing equity support to business including those in east Galway. This independent venture capital company was the first to relocate and establish an office outside Dublin.

With regard to micro enterprises, Galway County Enterprise Board has primary responsibility for the promotion of indigenous industry in this sector in east Galway and is strongly committed to the support and development of this sector. To date in 2004 the board has approved a total of €252,550 in the east Galway region for 14 projects and has assisted in the creation of 26 net jobs in the area. As well as capital and employment grants, the board operates a comprehensive range of development and support programmes designed to help new and existing enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently to ensure survival and growth. To date in 2004, 74 participants have availed of this training. The board continues to be proactive in ensuring that available funds are targeted to maximise entrepreneurial development throughout the region.

East Galway deserves the high level of attention given to it by the three development agencies. I expect this to continue in the future and the momentum that has been achieved to be built on, leading to successful and vibrant economic growth, which that part of our country so richly deserves.

East Galway and the Ballinasloe area, in particular, have been devastated by the loss of several highly prestigious companies, which had to close because of international economic pressures in recent years. A comprehensive effort is being made by the IDA and Enterprise Ireland. The Tánaiste indicated in the Dáil recently that she is confident there will be good news for the Ballinasloe area before too long. Projects are in the pipeline, which the Tánaiste and the IDA hope will come to fruition and give a much needed boost to east Galway. Senator Kitt and his colleagues have been proactive in promoting the region. I look forward to them receiving good news in return for their efforts in the not too distant future.