The Government has a new plan - Future Jobs Ireland - to ensure we are preparing now for the jobs of the future. While the economy is performing well with strong employment and wage growth, we cannot be complacent. In the past we took success for granted and failed to prepare for emerging challenges, trends and opportunities. It is my priority as Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to see more jobs created in the regions. Regional development is a key priority for this Government and it is important that the value of collaboration and the work by the development agencies, which has yielded strong jobs results in recent years, must be complimented by a bottom-up approach in providing critical business supports and advice.
Enterprise Ireland’s results for 2018 show the progress that the Agency have been making in supporting and driving the creation of new enterprises in the indigenous sector at a national and regional level. Client companies assisted by Enterprise Ireland created 18,846 jobs in 2018 and 64% of the jobs created were outside Dublin, with all regions recording increases in employment. There were 215,207 people employed by Enterprise Ireland supported companies in 2018, the highest total employment in the history of the agency and exports also reached a new record of €23.8 billion. Importantly, these EI client firms have extensive links to their local economies around the country and EI client purchases of raw material and services and wages to direct employees exceeded €27 billion in 2018.
Enterprise Ireland provide funding and other supports with the objective of increasing the potential employment and sales growth of businesses, supporting regional development, increasing the productivity and innovation in indigenous businesses, and increasing exports.
The 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are located throughout the country and provide a range of supports for the micro and small business sector. The LEOs act as the “first-stop-shop” for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and other supports to those wishing to start or grow their own business. The Government agreed to increase funding for the LEOs by 22% in 2019 and this increase is being used to assist micro-enterprises in becoming more competitive and to build resilience against Brexit. The LEOs are supporting over 36,000 jobs in 7,000 small Irish businesses and significantly in 2018 171 LEO clients were transferred to Enterprise Ireland for further growth and investment. Future Jobs Ireland has a commitment to examine how best to strengthen the capacity of the LEOs to work with and support a broader range of ambitious and growth-oriented enterprises to improve productivity growth, innovation and resilience.
In March 2017 the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) was launched. The REDF is a €60m competitive fund complementary to the Regional Enterprise plans and with the overarching aim of driving enterprise development and job creation in each region throughout Ireland. The Fund is administered for my Department by Enterprise Ireland and it is aimed at supporting collaborative and innovative projects that can have a significant impact on enterprise development and help to sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level.
During 2017 and 2018, 42 projects have been awarded funding as part of Government initiatives under Project Ireland 2040, over two completed Calls for Proposals worth a total of almost €60m, with collaborative projects supported in every region.
I announced a third REDF competitive call last week with a fund of €45m to further align this fund with key policy developments including Future Jobs Ireland and in order to continue to build Brexit resilience in the regions.
I also recently announced the second call of the pilot Online Retail Scheme which has been open for applications since 19 June 2019. Call 2 of the pilot Online Retail Scheme is open to applications from Irish owned retail businesses with 10 or more employees, and who have a physical retail outlet.