Home News Business Grave concern expressed at recent IDA figures which show Laois ‘bottom of...

Grave concern expressed at recent IDA figures which show Laois ‘bottom of the table’ for jobs

Portlaoise Enterprise Park

Laois Chamber Alliance has written to TDs and Ministers representing Laois seeking an urgent meeting regarding the dire need for immediate action on the county’s bottom of the table placing in terms of IDA supported jobs.

Within the letter, it is abundantly clear there is a need to make Laois a priority county for regional IDA site visits and to improve the county’s position by encouraging further job creation by IDA-sponsored companies.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, was recently asked through a Parliamentary Question for the number of jobs per county in IDA Ireland-sponsored companies on Tuesday September 27.

These figures were provided in tabular form in a written response, showing that in 2021 Laois came last with 157 IDA supported jobs.

This figure is less than half the number of IDA supported jobs recorded in the second lowest county, Monaghan, at 430 jobs. In neighbouring Offaly, a figure of 1,302 jobs was recorded.

In their detailed letter, Laois Chamber Alliance highlighted that “the Midlands region as a whole has 6,868 IDA supported jobs, and the 157 Laois jobs representing 2.2% of that.

“So while the Midlands region performed well overall, looking at this headline figure is insufficient to reveal the truth of a very uneven distribution within the region, where for example Westmeath has 59.68% of jobs, Offaly has 18.95%, and Longford has 19%.”

Laois Chamber Alliance further added that “the imbalance is yet again a disappointing lack of acknowledgement of all that Laois has to offer: a superb location, convenient to the cities of Dublin, Cork, and Limerick, and their airports, and to Dublin Port and Rosslare Port.

“Alongside this extremely favourable logistical location, there is huge access to talent. For example, a survey showed that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 13,000 working people were commuting out of the county daily.

“We also have a thriving and growing population, with the 2022 Census showing an 8.2% increase in population since the last census in 2016.

“Laois also has availability of suitable sites for IDA client companies and investors, and indeed affordability with lower operational costs than Dublin and other large urban centres.”

Laois Chamber Alliance commends the support of numerous businesspeople and investors who “can vouch for the excellent business and investment offering in the county” and furthermore “display a remarkably positive, can-do attitude”.

Laois Chamber Alliance calls into question Laois’ positioning in the IDA Midlands region and states that the current positioning simply isn’t working.

The IDA is urged to reconsider the region Laois is assigned to, stating that it would be far more appropriate for the county to be located in the Mid- East Region or South- East Region.

Newly elected President of Laois Chamber Alliance, Yvonne McKeon, said: “Laois provides quality market fundamentals in three key areas; location quality, connectivity ( physical and virtual), and a vibrant educated young workforce, 13,000 of whom are forced to commute daily to jobs outside the county.

“Despite this, and despite the stated “regional focus” of both government and the IDA, Laois has never yet seen a fair share of IDA supported jobs. Fairness means proportionate support and distribution of jobs and investment, and it is overdue for Laois to be offered a fair share.

“We need to see it happen in Laois now. Laois Chamber Alliance makes the call for a combined effort to see an immediate fair share allocation for Laois.”

Martin Crowley, Chairperson of Invest in Laois and the first President of the newly established Laois Chamber in 2019, also highlighted his concerns and said: “The number of IDA supported jobs is indefensible in relation to the spread of supported Jobs throughout the country.

“Laois is one of the best strategically placed counties in the country, it’s convenient to everywhere.

“We have a County Council that with the development of Junction 17, is both proactive and visionary.

“We have such a talent pool leaving the county every day, that businesses have a ready-made workforce on their doorstep if they decide to set up in Laois.

“It’s testament to our commuters that Laois is a more affordable place to live.

“It’s about time that the powers that be see that it’s better for everyone, including our environment, to bring the jobs to Laois rather than having people to commute a couple of hours each day to their employment.

“By working in Laois, it will give employees and their families more time to enjoy areas like the wonderful Emo Court Estate and the Slieve Bloom Mountains which has a positive bearing on productivity for businesses in Laois.”

Caroline Hofman, CEO of Laois Chamber Alliance, added: “Unfortunately, our abysmal placing is not a new revelation, with the lack of IDA supported jobs and site visits hitting headlines for many years.

“There is simply no plausible explanation for the statistics, as we have such a strong offering with location, proximity to ports and airports, access to talent, availability of sites, and indeed affordability with lower operational costs than Dublin and our large urban centres.

“The fact that we have some excellent international companies located here already speaks dividends about Laois and why we are ideally located for FDI.

“It’s clear Laois should be a priority site for IDA visits at a regional level.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.