The Local Enterprise Offices are the primary providers of supports to assist micro-enterprises within the indigenous sector that are facing challenges arising from Brexit. My Department through the LEOs, has continued to promote the importance of local businesses preparing for Brexit, and has developed a range of supports to help them achieve this. The LEOs are working vigorously to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK and to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets. I am pleased to say that as part of Budget 2019, the LEOs were provided with an additional capital funding of €5 million in 2019 to enable the LEO network to ramp up its supports, in light of Brexit, to drive improvements, providing companies with mentorship and training programmes to prepare for any kind of Brexit. In particular the LEO network focused on promoting its core programmatic and soft supports for its client companies and individuals requesting Brexit related assistance.
Those core offerings were comprised of:
- The Brexit Mentoring Programme
- The Prepare Your Business for Customs Workshops
- The Online Customs Insights course from Enterprise Ireland
- The LEAN for Micro programme from Enterprise Ireland
- The Technical Assistance for Micro-Exporters (TAME) Grant
LEOs offer Priming Grants to support business start-up costs have seen an increase year on year which shows entrepreneurial activities continue to increase in the country regardless of the uncertainty that Brexit provides. With the direct grant aid and Brexit supports available it puts entrepreneurial activities in a strong position to the lead up of Brexit.
The Local Enterprise Office is the First Stop Shop for anyone seeking information and support on starting or growing a business in Ireland. The LEOs were established to offer direct grant aid to microenterprises which have the potential to develop into strong export entities.
It is also worth noting that there is a strong pipeline of young and emerging entrepreneurial talent in the country right now. I had the pleasure on 15th September last to present awards at Google's European Headquarters in Dublin to some of our finest young entrepreneurs from all parts of the country whom took part in the Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) competition, which is now in its fifth year. The programme, which is run by the network of Local Enterprise Offices has gone from strength to strength, attracting over 1,600 applicants in 2019, which is well on a par with previous years. I recommend that you take a look at the IBYE website to gain a clearer picture of how promising the future of entrepreneurship in Ireland looks at this time.
Clearly, Brexit is as much a challenge to microenterprises as it is to any other sized enterprise. Nevertheless, I am pleased to say that there has been strong and meaningful engagement throughout 2019 from the microenterprise sector with the LEO network and in particular the LEO Brexit offering. By way of example, the data in regard to the LEOs Brexit programmes and supports show a marked increase in 2019 relative to 2018 and this with three months of 2019 left to run.
I am confident therefore that in the days and weeks ahead, the LEO network will continue its robust and meaningful engagement with its many clients and will remain an integral component in this Government’s toolkit to prepare our microenterprise sector to face any challenge that comes its way as a result of Brexit.