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Speech by Minister Heather Humphreys T.D.
Good afternoon, everyone.
You’re very welcome to Farmleigh!
I’m delighted so many of you could join me today for this important discussion about growing enterprise in the regions.
As you are probably aware, since I was appointed Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation I have made jobs in the regions my top priority.
Working together, I am confident that we can unlock the full potential of enterprise and entrepreneurship in every part of Ireland.
In fact, Ireland’s prospects for sustained economic growth depends on it.
The Government introduced the Regional Action Plan for Jobs in 2014.
There were some green shoots in the economy at the time, but it was clear that not all parts of the country were seeing the same level of recovery.
At the beginning of 2015, the unemployment rate was 10.5 percent, and three regions were more than 2 percent higher than that.
One of our key objectives was to get an extra 10 – 15% back to work in each region by 2020.
We also worked towards driving regional unemployment rates down to within one percentage point of the national average.
I’m delighted to say that over the last two years, unemployment has reduced in all regions.
And, only two regions continue to have unemployment rates over 1% above the State average.
The enterprise agencies have recorded substantial progress in the past few years.
Since the IDA ‘Winning’ Strategy was launched in 2015, half of all new IDA backed jobs created, were outside Dublin.
All regions saw increases in IDA employment in 2017, with the South East experiencing the highest growth at 9%.
Similarly, every region saw increases in Enterprise Ireland-supported jobs in 2017, with 64% of new positions outside of Dublin.
The West, Mid-West and North West saw the largest level of increases at 7%.
Small businesses supported by Local Enterprise Office are making a hugely important contribution to employment growth.
An average of 3,750 new jobs were created in micro companies in each of the last four years.
Of course, the Government can’t ‘drop’ jobs in a region.
First and foremost, this is down to the hard work of businesses across the country, who have focused on staying ahead of the game.
What we can do is ensure the right conditions are in place to allow enterprise to thrive – and this means constantly moving with the times.
I can assure you that the Government is 100% committed to this, but we won’t achieve our goal without your continued collaboration.
As Steve Jobs said:
"Great things in business are not done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.”
You can all be very proud of the impact of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs so far, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your work.
The Regional Action Plan Implementation Committees - which you have all participated in - have been instrumental in achieving a collaborative approach.
The Local Authorities, enterprise agencies and Regional Skills Fora have been vital, together with the partnership we have seen from the private sector.
I would like to pay tribute to the Chairpersons today for giving their valuable time and expertise, and for driving this project.
Your leadership experience and knowledge of what businesses need to succeed has been crucial.
There is no doubt though that since 2015, new challenges have emerged.
To name just one example:
The Regional Plans didn’t foresee that the British people would vote to leave the EU – very few of us did!
So, as we look towards 2020, we need to take stock.
We need to be more strategic.
We need to be realistic about what we can achieve.
And we need to fully exploit the advantage of working together.
The current phase of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs needs to move to the next, with an even stronger sense of purpose.
In the coming months, I want us to think about what has been achieved together and how we can improve together.
I would like you to identify no more than 10 strategic objectives.
These might include:
an economic or sectoral opportunity for your region;
addressing a barrier to further enterprise investment;
tackling a regional vulnerability, such as a declining activity or sector, or a skills gap.
Most importantly, they have to be areas where you can achieve measurable progress up to 2020.
My officials will be working closely with you to refresh the Regional Plans and continue the great work you have been doing.
I am looking forward to hearing your views today.
I also want to hear about what more we can do to help you achieve your goals.
Of course, I want your ideas become a reality for your region.
So, in that context, I am delighted to announce the opening of the Second Call of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund, which is worth €30m.
As you know, this Fund is getting behind initiatives that are led from the regions - from the ground up.
I want commend the many people who have got involved in developing the project proposals in the first round – I know that many of you are here today.
I would like to see the Regional Implementation Committees remain at the heart of this funding process.
And, I am delighted that the Fund will operate on a rolling basis in the coming years as part of Project Ireland 2040.
I’m delighted that Julie and Jerry Moloney are here today to talk to you about the Fund.
Thank you again for your huge commitment to the Regional Action Plans.
I’m looking forward to our discussions later on, and to meeting with your Committees over the coming weeks and months.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.