Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
Deputy Thomas Byrne: I was perturbed to read in this morning’s Drogheda Independent a statement by a senior official of IDA Ireland that the agency would be open to considering the possible sale of lands at its Drogheda business park, located in County Meath in the Meath East constituency, and possibly replace them with lands located in County Louth. People in County Meath were also disheartened by this report.
The business park in Donore Road is ideally located in County Meath, adjacent to the large town of Drogheda and on the motorway roundabout for the M1 at Donore roundabout. At approximately 25 minutes from Dublin Airport, it is strategically located.
However, the possibility the lands could be sold and replaced in County Louth gives a strong impression IDA Ireland lacks a commitment to County Meath. The agency should treat every part of the country equally while giving due regard to job blackspots and particular local problems.
The impression given today, however, would be a huge turn off to investors. If IDA Ireland is not prepared to commit to County Meath, why should outside investors? The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, is aware of several companies with which I am working to attract to County Meath.
While the lack of Border, midland and western regional grants is a disadvantage, the county has many advantages including its excellent motorway network, its people and Meath County Council’s efforts to attract business there.
Apart from the obvious benefits, Meath desperately needs an increased rates base. I know the Minister and the Government’s commitment to my county but that needs to be reflected in the public comments of representatives of State bodies charged with attracting business to the country. County Meath wants fairness, equity and its share.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation (Deputy Conor Lenihan): IDA Ireland is fully committed to continuing its work in actively marketing the IDA business park in Drogheda for appropriate industrial investment. The agency has no plans to sell the business park as a whole.
IDA Ireland completed the development of a 63-acre site in Drogheda during 2006 and construction of the first office building of approximately 23,000 sq. ft. on the park was completed in July 2006. This building is now occupied by IFS, International Fund Services, which operates a fund administration business employing over 200 people.
Through its network of overseas offices, IDA Ireland is actively marketing both Meath and Louth for new inward investment. In line with the national spatial strategy, IDA Ireland is concentrating its efforts on the gateway towns of Dundalk and Drogheda. However, a final decision on where to locate is taken by the company involved and not by IDA Ireland.
The type of investments which IDA Ireland now seeks to attract require a concentration of highly qualified and educated workers, supporting infrastructure and high level business services. Frequently, competition for foreign direct investment, FDI, comes from city regions with populations in excess of 1 million people. Dublin is the only recognised city region of scale in Ireland. If FDI is to continue to contribute to balanced regional development, the other regions must be promoted as regions of scale with urban centres that provide the range of infrastructure and services that high value investment projects demand. We need to think regionally, not locally.
One of the high level goals set out in the recently launched IDA Ireland strategy document, entitled, Horizon 2020, is that from 2010 to 2014, 50% of FDI projects will be located outside of Dublin and Cork. Building on existing regional strengths to ensure Ireland’s economic development and optimising regional spread in overseas investments is central to IDA Ireland’s core activities. Future mobile investment will be attracted not as much by financial incentives, but a business-friendly and efficient operating environment with good education facilities, quality access infrastructure and a pro-business public policy. Foreign investors will be drawn to locations because of the positive pull of the individual location rather than being pushed there by financial incentives.
The grant rates that apply in the different regions of Ireland are decided by the EU Commission on the basis of objective criteria. Ireland’ s current regional aid map for 2007 to 2013, which sets out the current grant rates in Ireland, was approved by the Commission in October 2006 and permits regional aid to areas covering 50% of the population. One EU requirement is that the areas selected are relatively more in need of economic development. The more developed given areas are deemed to be under GDP and employment indicators, the lower are the permitted aid rates.
Under the map, all of the Border, midlands and west region, which includes Louth, but not Meath, is classified as an economic development region and qualifies for regional aid throughout the 2007-13 programme. The south-east sub-region, which comprises Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow and Tipperary South, also qualifies for regional aid throughout 2007-13 on the basis of unemployment criteria specified by the European Commission.
While the Dublin and mid-east sub-region of Meath, Wicklow and Kildare are not entitled to regional aid, they continue to qualify for other forms of State aid, including aid for small and medium-sized enterprises, research and development, training aid and environmental protection aid, which are available in all areas.
The IDA will continue its work in actively marketing the IDA business park in Drogheda for appropriate industrial investment. My priority is to ensure the business environment is supportive of Irish enterprise and export growth and that we continue to attract high-value foreign investment.
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