Tuesday, 8 November 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Foreign Direct Investment
I, too, welcome our guests. I am glad to have the Minister of State with us as well. I would like to take this opportunity, which is the first I have had, to congratulate him on his new appointment. As they say, no better man for this job than his good self.
I would like to talk to the Minister of State about a new IDA advance technology building that has been completed in County Monaghan. The new 1,400 sq. m building was built at the IDA Business and Technology Park just outside Monaghan town at Knockaconny. It has ancillary office space over two floors. Advanced technology buildings, which are referred to as ATBs, are designed to facilitate a change of function to advance office buildings, if required. They also have 100% expansion capability, which is a very good feature.
The IDA said these ATBs offer ready for occupation, high-specification flexible and sustainable property solutions suitable for high-value manufacturing and global business services to support the winning of investment from foreign direct investment clients. The Monaghan development is part of IDA Ireland's wider regional property programme, the objective of which is to develop property solutions in regional locations across the country in places such as Monaghan. The initiative is vital in supporting the Border region in particular because in the past, the region has been left behind.This new facility must now help to attract more investment to a county and region that has previously had to fend for itself. I am aware that advertisements to potential investors began when the building was completed towards the end of last year and that is an ongoing process. I am also informed that the IDA is actively promoting this facility across 24 offices across the globe. I hope that the IDA can find an investor with long-term potential and one that has the potential to grow even further.
County Monaghan and the Border regions have for far too long exported their children to the capital city and further afield. It is interesting to note recent statistics, which state that Monaghan has in more recent years had one of the highest levels of young people going to third-level institutions of any county in the State. However, unfortunately, many of our young people who graduate have no work in their native county to return to. That is something that we need to address. That is why a county like Monaghan is long overdue some foreign direct investment. I believe that this facility has the potential to kickstart that development. I appreciate that the Minister of State may be curtailed in what he can say to us this afternoon, but I am hoping that he might be able to outline what progress has been made to date by the IDA in trying to find a tenant. How many site visits have there been? Hopefully, as a result of those site visits, we might have some positive news for the county shortly.
I, too, welcome the guests in the Gallery and I thank Senator Gallagher for his contribution, for his ongoing interest in this issue and for his good wishes.
Senators will recall that 2021 was a record-breaking year for foreign direct investment employment. Total employment in IDA client companies now stands at 275,384, which was up over 29,000 on the 2020 figure. Growth in the regions was particularly buoyant, with 53%, or 133 projects of the 249 investments won by IDA, going to regional locations. Employment growth was recorded in every region of the country in 2021 and our agencies are currently finalising the 2022 employment survey with a view to publishing it before the end of this year.
Monaghan is marketed by the IDA as part of the wider Border region made up of the counties of Donegal, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, as well as Monaghan. There are currently eight IDA-supported companies in Monaghan employing 430 people. The FDI performance in the Border region has been strong over the past five years with employment among IDA clients increasing by 18% as traditional strengths in sectors such as engineering, industrial technologies and medical technologies were complemented by new investments from the technology, international financial services and life science sectors.
Key to that success is strategic collaboration with national and local stakeholders on the enhancement of the regional value proposition. The existing FDI-based companies in Monaghan enjoy strong collaborative links with several third-level colleges including Dundalk Institute of Technology, the Technological University of the Shannon and the Atlantic Technology University. IDA Ireland is committed to ensuring a good supply of suitable property solutions to be available for FDI in regional locations and as such the agency has a network of business and technology parks across every region to support both IDA and Enterprise Ireland client companies.
As the Senator said, IDA’s business and technology park is located on the outskirts of Monaghan town, which is an 80-minute drive from Belfast City Airport and from Dublin Airport. The park comprises 17 ha and is fully landscaped. The development of the advance building solution in Monaghan was part of IDA Ireland’s wider regional property programme. The programme is funded by the Government with an extra €20 million this year. Completed in 2021, this building is located in the IDA park and offers additional IDA lands adjoining the site offering opportunities for expansion subject to planning. The building includes a technology or manufacturing space and two-storey accommodation.
I am advised that the IDA has regular engagement with client companies and stakeholders in the county and this will continue both towards the end of 2022 and throughout 2023.IDA Ireland will continue to market Monaghan and the wider Border region through its overseas offices, as referred to by the Senator, to target mobile FDI and will arrange corresponding site visits as required. I will continue to keep pressure on IDA Ireland to ensure we fill the unit as soon as possible.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response. I have no doubt he and his office will leave no stone unturned to ensure we find a suitable client for this state-of-the-art facility. Monaghan has shown, through indigenous industries, whether in engineering with Combilift or in food with Monaghan Mushrooms, that we can be world leaders in whatever field we choose. To date, unfortunately, foreign direct investment has been a stranger to our shores, so we hope that with this facility, and with the Minister of State at the helm, we will push all we can to ensure we get a suitable tenant here in order that our young people and graduates, who heretofore have been forced to travel, will have the option to come home to work in their chosen occupation, in line with their qualifications, in a facility located in their own county.
I assure the Senator I will certainly look forward to working him and other Oireachtas colleagues towards promoting this advanced building solution. Its construction is a major win for Monaghan. Having a site that is ready for go for any potential investor will put it well ahead of other locations. As the Senator noted, there is a proud tradition of enterprise in Monaghan, and the collaboration I mentioned with the third and fourth level institutions and the easy access to transport hubs, for both air and sea travel, make it a high-value proposition for inward investment. I will continue to work with the Senator on promoting that and I have asked IDA Ireland to keep me updated on its efforts to fill the building.