Anyone interested in starting or expanding their own business should in the first instance contact their local County and City Enterprise Board (CEB). The CEBs support the indigenous micro-enterprise sector in the start-up and expansion phases and stimulate enterprise potential at local level. They are the first port of call in terms of advice, direction, training and, in certain circumstances, grant support for anyone who wishes to start or expand a business. Contact details for the CEBs are available on www.enterpriseboards.ie.
Work is well underway to transform the support infrastructure for small and micro businesses, which will see the CEBs as presently constituted dissolved and re-formed as Local Enterprise Offices within Local Authorities working under the direction and guidance of the new Enterprise Ireland Centre of Excellence. This will ensure that Ireland has an enhanced, seamless and benchmarked support and progression pathway for small and micro business. I am confident that this reform will bring about a new level of engagement and interaction at both national and local level in relation to enterprise support and economic recovery and growth, and will result in an enhanced, more consistent and coherent set of enterprise supports with positive effects in terms of start-up numbers and increased employment.
I have also introduced two targeted schemes to support an additional flow of credit into the economy, namely the Microenterprise Loan Fund and the Credit Guarantee Scheme to positively impact on entrepreneurship and job creation. The Microenterprise Loan Fund improves access to credit for microenterprises and facilitates the growth and expansion of viable businesses with less than 10 employees from all industry sectors across the country, which have been refused access to credit from the banks. Support is in the form of loans for up to €25,000, available to start-up, newly established, or growing microenterprises, with viable business propositions, that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks after one full year in operation. As of 18 October 2013, MFI has approved 109 applications to the value of €1.674m supporting 107 microenterprises and 237 jobs.
The SME Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) supports SMEs who, because of lack of collateral or because of the sector they operate in, face difficulties in accessing traditional bank credit. Commercially viable, well performing micro, small and medium enterprises that have a solid business plan and a defined market for their products or services, and can demonstrate their ability to repay the loan are the target of this scheme. The CGS is currently being independently reviewed to help improve the Scheme for all businesses. I intend taking appropriate action as a result of the review to ensure use of the Scheme is maximised and a report will be published shortly. As at 4 October 2013, there were 69 live CGS facilities resulting in €9.7m being sanctioned through the Scheme by the participating lenders resulting in 433 new jobs being created and 139 jobs maintained.
In addition, JobsPlus which was a disruptive reform in the 2013 Action Plan for Jobs is a new employer incentive, now run by the Department of Social Protection. This pays a cash grant towards employers who offer employment opportunities to the long term unemployed. Anyone interested in availing of the scheme should contact their Department of Social Protection local office.