On January 25th, Mick asked Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton to create employment not just in the South East but in Wexford in particular. With unemployment rates soaring in the county, a lack of a 3rd level institution, high suicide rates, teenage pregnancies and low literacy levels; Mick pressed the Minister to bring employment to Wexford through the IDA. Figures show that in 2007, when the economy was perceived to be healthy, 50% more Wexford people were working outside the county than in it. You can watch the discussion from the Dáil here.Mick Wallace To ask the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation in view of the creation last year of more than 13,000 jobs supported by the Industrial Development Agency and in view of the net gain of 6,114 jobs overall, the number of these jobs that were created in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. Richard Bruton In 2011, IDA client companies created more than 13,000 new jobs, up 20% on the previous year’s level of 10,897, increasing the total number of those employed directly in companies supported by the agency to almost 146,000, representing a net increase of more than 6,000. The IDA has informed me that there are 12 IDA Ireland-supported client companies in County Wexford employing 2,060 people. Some 51 new jobs were created in IDA Ireland-supported client companies in Wexford in 2011. The most significant announcement last year came in September when the Taoiseach joined Mr. Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, to celebrate the opening of the new $300 million Coca-Cola manufacturing and innovation facility in Wexford, which will facilitate the creation of 100 new jobs in the coming years. This investment is a vote of confidence in Wexford by a global leader. The past year has been a difficult one for the south east region with significant job losses. The rise in unemployment in the region has been sharper than in the rest of the country. In the wake of the TalkTalk closure, I instructed my agencies to put together an action plan for the south east. The report was published in December 2011 and contains many actions that can help deliver on the ambition of having a stronger local enterprise base, but it can only achieve so much. There are challenges for all agencies in the region to help build up its competitive advantage and promote it in a co-ordinated manner. The south East received a boost earlier this month with the announcement that Eishtec, a Waterford-based company providing consumer contact centre services, is to create 250 new jobs by mid-2012 as part of a major new expansion at its new custom built facility in Cleaboy Business Park. Mick Wallace The situation in the south east is bad, but it is even worse in County Wexford. The creation of 51 jobs out of 14,000 means that, compared with the national average, matters have worsened in the past year. Almost 20,000 people are on the live register in Wexford and it is one of the country’s worst unemployment spots. Two factors help people to get out of difficult circumstances, those being, jobs and education. We are lagging behind dramatically in both respects. This has led to significant social problems. We have some of the highest illiteracy, teenage pregnancy and suicide rates. We have no third level college. The recent cuts in special needs assistants, SNAs, have had a dramatic effect in Wexford, probably more so than in most counties. Cuts to resource teaching for Travellers and to language support teaching have had considerable effects on primary schools. Gorey community school, the largest school in the country, has lost three guidance teachers. The situation is going downhill. What active decisions can the Government take to reverse this trend? Traditionally, places with poor land were poor. The land in Wexford is good, but 50% more Wexford people were working outside the county than in it in 2007. For some strange reason, few jobs have gone to Wexford in the past 20 years. Richard Bruton I accept the Deputy’s comments. For the reasons he has outlined, I have directed the IDA to give a particular priority to the region. It has suffered badly, and not only during the recession. During the good years, the growth in its industrial base did not match the growth in other parts of the country. I have also directed Enterprise Ireland to contact its portfolio of companies intensively and to make a competitive call for feasibility funding for new start-ups targeted specifically at the south east. Some of Enterprise Ireland’s new programmes will be piloted in the south east to give the region the first opportunity. We have sought to build on the research excellences found in Waterford Institute of Technology, WIT, and work with companies to develop them. We are intensively considering what our agencies can do to promote employment growth in the south-east and to support business start-ups. Many of the issues the Deputy raised fall outside my remit. I am acutely aware that, for a long time, the region has sought to upgrade from an institute of technology. I understand that criteria will shortly be published to clarify the requirements for the development of a technological university. The Minister for Education and Skills is clear on there being an opportunity for educational institutions to develop. I acknowledge the Deputy’s remarks and it is a region to which we are giving intensive attention. Mick Wallace The Minister should keep in mind that most of the initiatives to which he has referred are directed towards Waterford. Wexford has a much faster growing population. It is one of the country’s fastest growing populations. Many of the issues I raised are of a social nature and outside the Minister’s remit, but the lack of jobs feeds into them. For example, Gorey community school is the largest school in the country. When I visited it last week, people were worried that students would fall through the net because of the cut to guidance teachers. The lack of jobs is creating social problems, yet we are cutting the measures to deal with those problems. Given that Wexford has a fast growing population and has already fallen behind, its circumstances will worsen without active intervention on the part of the Government. Richard Bruton This is active intervention. I have already directed the IDA to ensure that 50% of projects should be outside Dublin and Cork. Within that directive, we are placing a spotlight on the south east. While that also includes Waterford, one must consider a region’s strengths and its hub and gateway locations and try to build on what exists. The IDA does not have the power to move jobs around and companies can choose locations. We must consider the region as a whole. I hope our intervention will help the entire region and not just focus on its largest city. We will monitor progress. Peadar Tóibín There are significant regional disparities in the State-aid provided through the IDA and Enterprise Ireland. For example, County Meath has 4% of Ireland’s population but receives 0.3% of IDA funding. In three of the past five years, counties Cavan and Monaghan received no IDA funding. Last year, Meath received two IDA visits in total. My issue relates to Deputy Wallace’s questions. When one approaches these enterprise organisations, one is often told that they find it difficult to get businesses to come to Ireland and that getting them to locate in particular regions is next to impossible. How much is the Government spending on regional offices for the IDA and Enterprise Ireland if, by their own admission, they are irrelevant in terms of directing businesses to the regions? We are funding a regional infrastructure within the State agencies, yet they cannot intervene to direct where the businesses go. Some businesses are operating without making provisions for contingent liabilities such as redundancy pay. Therefore, they are operating in a bankrupt fashion. Either the legislation or the policing of this matter is not working. Will the Minister consider a system whereby businesses must pay a bond, as construction companies did in the past, to ensure those liabilities are covered in the event of company failure? Richard Bruton Immediate success can be had by IDA Ireland in respect of smaller companies. However, in the case of substantial job announcements, where the company in question is seeking a very deep labour pool, there is, of necessity, a certain restriction in terms of the regions that can offer a good fit. More recently IDA Ireland’s focus has been less on the blue chip companies and more on emerging businesses which are more regionally footloose. It has had success in establishing such projects in regions outside of the core population centres. That approach is working well. It is essential that we have a regional network whereby the agencies can work closely with local authorities and the other players which provide the property solutions and so on. They must be able to work with educational institutions on research and development, for instance, and on identifying the needs of particular companies. It is essential, whether for importing indigenous companies or IDA Ireland companies, that there be a support network which facilitates that level of intelligence. The Deputy is correct that there has been a growing focus within IDA Ireland on winning business overseas rather than concentrating on particular regions. Traditionally, advance factories were the big selling point for the agencies, but that is no longer what companies are seeking. Requirements are changing and IDA Ireland is evolving to meet them.