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Offaly IDA figures make for grim read

Story by Laura Ryder

Friday, 3rd February, 2012 4:30pm

Offaly IDA figures make for grim read

IDA Ireland has been slated locally this week, after figures emerged last Friday showing the IDA's less than top class performance in Offaly.

Just 31 new jobs were created in IDA-backed companies in Offaly last year, while 78 jobs were lost in the same year.

Furthermore it was revealed that Offaly's IDA grant total of €510,727 from 2006-2010 was the third lowest grant amount in the country for the period, and with only a single IDA client visit to Offaly last year things look unlikely to improve in the short term either.

The figures came to light when Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton answered a parliamentary question posed by Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin.

Local Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley referred to the IDA's track record in Offaly as "abysmal", while independent Tullamore councillor Sean O'Brien demanded that local TDs put pressure on Minister Bruton to get more IDA-backed jobs for Offaly.

"IDA seem to have a mental block when it comes to Laois-Offaly," Deputy Stanley said. "Where's our bang for our buck?"

The Sinn Féin deputy for the Laois Offaly constituency said the current situation is "not acceptable" and said IDA chiefs are obliged to publicly explain the reasons for their lack of success in both Laois and Offaly.

"Their (the IDA) performance in this constituency is absolutely appalling and is a continuation of obvious neglect and inertia on the part of IDA bosses in the area over many years. I've raised this with them many times over the years," said Deputy Stanley.

"I'm contacting the IDA to request a meeting to discuss these issues."

Ten IDA-backed companies in Offaly currently employ 721 employees. The situation is even greyer in neighbouring Laois, where just 100 people are employed in two IDA-backed companies. Only three IDA-backed jobs were created last year, while one job was lost. The county did have two client visits last year, but received the lowest IDA grant amount in the country from 2006-2010 at just €370,282.

Meanwhile in Westmeath a healthy 15 IDA client visits were arranged last year, and 2,030 people are employed by 19 IDA-backed companies in the county. Just under 200 IDA-backed jobs were created in Westmeath in 2011, while 56 were lost.

The county's grant total from 2006-2010 was a whopping €6.4m.

Speaking to the Offaly Independent however Regional Communications Executive with the IDA Catherina Blewitt said headline figures were "a bit sensationalist".

She said the IDA thinks in terms of regions rather than counties, and said it's important to remember that a final decision on where to locate lies with the investor and not the IDA.

IDA grant aid in the form of employment, training and research and development grants follows the investor location, thereby limited the organisation's ability to spread IDA-backed companies and the resulting grant aid evenly throughout the country.

MS Blewitt added, however, that the IDA is working towards a target of locating 50% of all investments in regions outside the urban areas of Dublin and Cork and will continue to work hard towards that goal going forward.

However Cllr Seán O'Brien said urgent action is clearly needed in Offaly's case.

"We have lost key companies like Lowe Alpine, Snickers, LMS Beach and Continental among others in recent years and there have not been major replacements," he said.

"I am now asking our TDs to put strong pressure on the Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, so that Offaly can get its fair share of available IDA-backed enterprises."

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