The primary agencies under the remit of my Department with responsibility for supports and initiatives for small and medium enterprises in Donegal are Enterprise Ireland (EI) and the Donegal County Enterprise Board (CEB). Enterprise Ireland provides funding and expertise to companies with ten or more employees in the indigenous manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors who wish to expand through increased export activity. Through its network of 34 overseas offices, Enterprise Ireland assists client companies to create and implement successful strategies for market entry, development and growth.
Since the beginning of 2004 Enterprise Ireland approved over €15m in support to its client companies in Co. Donegal and made payments of over €7.5m. In the same period, EI has also approved support of €883,000 for Third Level/Industry Partnerships with Letterkenny Institute of Technology to encourage the adoption of new technologies by industry.
Enterprise Ireland initiatives in County Donegal to assist in job creation include;—
Enterprise Ireland supports the CEIM Enterprise Platform Programme, in partnership with Letterkenny Institute of Technology, the Institutes of Technology in Sligo and Border Action in providing a training programme for entrepreneurs wishing to set up their own businesses. This programme is now going into its fourth year.
Enterprise Ireland, in partnership with Invest Northern Ireland and SEUPB commenced recruitment for the Transform Programme (a new cross-border enterprise incubation programme) in May 2007. The programme was launched on 11th Sept 2007 with a total of 43 participants (9 from the North West Region).
Enterprise Ireland approved support of €650,000 in 2006 for the provision of enterprise space in Carndonagh and Donegal Town, as part of the Community Enterprise Centre scheme.
Enterprise Ireland approved €2.54m in 2005 to extend The Business Development Centre at Letterkenny Institute of Technology to cater for increasing demand. The building is due to commence in 2008.
During the years 2004 to 2006, a total of 1,156 full time jobs were created in Enterprise Ireland client companies in County Donegal, as against job losses of 980, leaving a net gain of 176 jobs.
Enterprise Ireland's policy objectives for balanced regional development are reflected in the structure of its funding offer, whereby, funding for existing company expansion and start-up businesses is biased towards the regions. The maximum grant level is higher than in Dublin and the Mid-East and a higher proportion of this funding is also non-repayable.
Also, under the Innovation Voucher Scheme, which I announced in March of this year, companies with less than 50 employees can apply for a voucher worth €5,000 and, if successful, the voucher can be exchanged for advice and expertise from accredited knowledge providers. A number of Donegal companies have already availed of this scheme.
As regards the Donegal County Enterprise Board, funded by my Department, its role is to provide support to micro-enterprises in the start-up and expansion phases, to promote and develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. Through the provision of both financial and non-financial support the Board supports individuals, firms and community groups provided that the proposed projects have the capacity to achieve commercial viability. Financial support is available in the form of Capital Grants, Employment Grants and Feasibility Study grants. From the Board's inception in 1993 to-date they have paid out over €6.7m in grant assistance to over 300 clients, which has assisted in the creation of 1,385 jobs.
In relation to non-financial support, Donegal CEB engages in a range of activities to stimulate enterprise and to support small businesses, including the following:
provision of one-to-one business advice and guidance and one-to one Mentoring through the Boards Mentor panel;
development and delivery of activities to highlight and promote enterprise in such as the annual Enterprising Donegal Week;
provision of targeted training programmes such as Start Your Own Business, financial management, computerised accounts, IT for small business etc.
In addition to its normal budgetary allocation, I have made additional funding available to Donegal CEB to develop and deliver two new initiatives i.e. a Business Information Service and a Lets Do Business Schools Programme. The Business Information Service involves the provision of a comprehensive business information service to individuals and businesses in the County. The Lets Do Business Schools Programme seeks to develop a spirit of enterprise within national and secondary schools through active learning in a range of enterprise competitions, events and enterprise clubs.
I can assure the Deputy that government funding support and initiatives for enterprises in County Donegal is, and will remain, a priority for the State development agencies under the auspices of my Department.