'Urgency required' to improve IDA Ireland's poor jobs record in Laois

Lynda Kiernan

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Lynda Kiernan

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lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie

'Urgency required' to improve IDA Ireland's poor jobs record in Laois

IDA Ireland Business & Technology Park in Portlaoise

Following the first joint visit by IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to Laois last week, there are hopes it will kickstart new efforts to bring new industry to the county.

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley hopes it means "a higher commitment now", while the CEO of Laois County Council said the agencies acknowledged that "a greater sense of urgency is required".

Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, and Julie Sinnamon CEO of Enterprise Ireland visited County Hall last Friday February 16, and met Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland, Cathaoirleach Cllr Padraig Fleming, Laois TDs Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley, and Minister Charlie Flanagan’s representative Rosemary Whelan.

Dep Stanley welcomed the meeting.

“This meeting with both the management teams along with the management of Laois County Council  provided an opportunity to have the relevant people in the one room to discuss the blocks to job creation in the County. Most importantly it offered the opportunity to them to outline what they think needs to happen locally and for the IDA and EI to commit to making greater progress," he said.

He noted the dismal record of the IDA in Laois.

"We have had years when not one single company was brought into Laois to consider it as a location for their business. A reply to a recent Dail question that I asked, put the number of new jobs in IDA backed companies in Laois at just 4 in 2017, with just a total of 119 working in these companies. Enterprise Ireland fared somewhat better with a gain of 109 jobs in firms that they supported," he said.

The IDA has 30 acres of land for business in Portlaoise, and a Business & Technology Park that is largely vacant, with the main tenants being a company founded by Portlaoise businessmen. 

"Internal Results is a local company and it is fantastic, we need more like them," said Dep Stanley. 

The IDA has upped its game so far in 2018, bringing four companies to visit Laois already, the same number it brought to the county for the whole of 2017.

Dep Stanley hopes it is a sign of better times to come.

"The fact that the IDA had 4 companies visit Laois in just the first 6 weeks of this year may indicate a higher commitment now. Both bodies also stated a willingness to invest in a greater level of marketing and to make every effort to get a significant employment project located here," he said.

He has asked for regular progress reports.

"We made a strong case for ‘the game to be upped’ and for annual reports on the efforts made and progress achieved over the coming years," he said.

He said that Laois has "a ready pool of labour".

"We rammed home that there are 11,470 workers commuting out of the county each morning. Along with the numbers still unemployed is not sustainable. This needs to change and requires an all out effort," he said.

The CEO of Laois County Council has said that the IDA and Enterprise Ireland bosses both acknowledged that "a greater sense of urgency is required".

John Mulholland said that the meeting was held to “discuss the pressing requirements to drive business and industrial development in our county”.

“The engagement with both agencies was frank, business like and comprehensive. It was acknowledged that a greater sense of urgency is required in order for the County and the region to reach its full potential,” he said.

Mr Mulholland also welcomed a commitment given by both agencies to secure strategic investment for available sites in Laois.

"The very positive disposition of both agencies and their commitment to secure strategic investment for available sites in Laois is particularly welcome," he said.

Enterprise Ireland supportes 55 companies in Laois that employ 1473 people, compared to IDA Ireland's two companies with a total of 119 employees in the county.