Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Questions (75)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

75. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans or proposals to assist small and struggling businesses in towns and villages. [50143/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Local Enterprise Office is the First Stop Shop for anyone seeking information and support on starting or growing a business in Ireland. The Local Enterprise Office provides advice, information and support to you in starting up or growing your business. With 31 dedicated teams across the Local Authority network in Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices offer you a wide range of experience, skills and services.

The LEOs provide a ‘signposting’ service in relation to all relevant State supports available through agencies such as Revenue, the Department of Social Protection, Education and Training Boards, the Credit Review Office and Microfinance Ireland. The LEOs can also offer advice and guidance in areas such as Local Authority rates, Public Procurement and other regulations affecting business.

The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (up to 10 employees) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector which, over time, have the potential to develop into strong export entities. Subject to certain eligibility criteria, the LEOs can provide financial assistance within three main categories

- Feasibility Grants (investigating the potential of a business idea)

- Priming Grants (to part-fund a start-up)

- Business Development grants for existing businesses that want to expand.

The LEOs may be able to offer ‘soft’ support in the form of training or provide a mentor to work with the business which include courses such as:

- The Mentor Programme is designed to match up the knowledge, skills, insights and entrepreneurial capability of experienced business practitioners with small business owner/ managers who need practical and strategic one to one advice and guidance.

- The LEO Management Development programmes provide the owner-manager with the management, leadership, business skills and knowledge to achieve sustainability and growth in their business.

- LEAN for Micro is a targeted programme for Local Enterprise Office clients to help small businesses boost competitiveness, increase performance and profitability as well as building resilience within their companies.

Furthermore, The LEO Productivity Challenge Fund of €500,000 which is primarily aimed at supporting domestically focused small businesses. This fund will help small businesses to examine their current operations to identify opportunities in addressing productivity gaps, embedding “lean” practices, greening their business and in reducing waste.  This initiative will also focus on training and capability development thereby enhancing customer experience, time and performance management. The scheme is aimed at enterprises employing less than 50 across a variety of sectors.  Small Irish businesses or enterprises can apply for one of the 200 productivity vouchers valued at €2,500 each, to help them develop a more efficient and productive business operation.  To qualify, businesses should examine their current operations and identify opportunities for addressing productivity gaps or improving efficiency in their business. There is a finite quantity of vouchers, so it is a competition to find the most deserving applicants. The productivity challenge aims to increase business productivity in any of the following ways:

- Improve the quality of products

- Reduce delivery times

- Lower the cost of production

- Reduce business waste

- Increase the ability to generate more revenue

- Additionally, the Research and Development Tax credit is aimed at start-up small and micro firms, who will be able to claim a higher rate of credit of 30% and will have improved options with regards to claiming the payable credit. These firms will also be able to claim the credit for expenditure incurred in advance of commencing to trade.

- Towns are places not only to live in, but to work in, do business in and invest in. The Retail Consultation Forum and my Department produced 'A Framework for Town Centre Renewal' in 2017 to help towns and villages across Ireland with a step by step plan for town centre renewal, which brings together all the key stakeholders in the town to work collaboratively to enhance their local town or village. At a collaborative level, Town groups can work together to improve footfall and customer experience in town centres through various measures such as enhancing accessibility, public spaces, and tackling vacant property. For detailed advice, Town groups can engage with recommendations set out in the Framework.

- The Framework also serves as a support document for towns and villages applying for funding streams under Project 2040.

I am confident that in the days and weeks ahead, the LEO network and Enterprise Ireland will continue their robust and meaningful engagement with their many clients and will remain an integral component in this Government’s toolkit to prepare our SME sector to face any challenge that comes with assisting business in towns and villages throughout the country.