2013 saw a record low in the rate of job losses in the Gaeltacht area, new figures from Údarás na Gaeltachta show today.

In its end of year review, Údarás na Gaeltachta said that its client companies created 616 new full time jobs last year, to bring total employment in Údarás client companies to 7,650.

When job losses are taken into consideration, there was a net increase of 96 jobs overall, it added. Export sales by Údarás companies last year increased to €464m.

It said it has focused on recent years in developing a key number of sectors, which include natural and marine resources, life sciences, ICT, food, niche manufacturing, engineering and other high-value, internationally tradable commodities.

The group said that the steady fall in the rate of job losses over the past number of years is a positive indication of how Gaeltacht companies have stabilised their employment base and can now look to growing their enterprise as the economy begins to recover. 

It also said that it had approved projects last year which are expected to generate a further 560 new jobs this year and in future years and which will lead to investments of €44m in Gaeltacht companies. 

Over half of these jobs will be created in new start-up enterprises, with the rest created by existing client companies as they further expand their businesses. 

Today's review includes research which shows that Údarás na Gaeltachta companies contributed about €1.5 billion to the Irish economy last year. Gaeltacht companies also contributed about 71m in tax payments to the Exchequer in the form of corporation and income taxes.

Údarás also noted that one of the main impediments to further enterprise growth and job creation is the Gaeltacht regions in the lack of adequate business infrastructure. 

"In spite of the relative prosperity experienced up to 2006, there are few examples of private sector investment in modern industrial/enterprise infrastructure and associated facilities in rural areas, outside of key centres of population, and the Gaeltacht in particular," the group said.

It said that a limited number of its industrial type properties have been redeveloped in recent years and these facilities are now close to full capacity. 

The redevelopment and upgrade of the Authority’s business property portfolio is key to the success of its enterprise development and employment creation strategy,  and an tÚdarás will be seeking ways to fund the redevelopment of its property portfolio, including the sale of assets, it added. 

It also warned that the absence of high speed broadband at a competitive cost places many Gaeltacht companies at a competitive disadvantage. Efforts are continuing to address this deficiency, it said.