Local Enterprise Offices

Questions (70)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

70. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the supports in place for businesses though the local enterprise office in County Donegal; the additional funding made to same in 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49962/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Local Enterprise Office in Donegal is the First Stop Shop for anyone seeking information and support on starting or growing a business. The Local Enterprise Office is for people interested in starting up a new business or already in business including entrepreneurs, early stage promoters, start-ups and small business looking to expand.

The role of the Local Enterprise Office is:

- To drive the development of local enterprise, putting local micro and small business at the heart of job creation in Ireland;

- To drive and support business start-ups and promote a ‘can-do’ business culture;

- To increase the job potential of new and existing micro and small businesses;

- To increase the number of innovative businesses with potential to export; and

- To be proactive in response to the needs of our clients.

In addition to the above the Local Enterprise Office provides funding for a range of programmes, training, workshops and sector specific events as well as actions to promote entrepreneurship.

The following table shows the range of actions and outputs delivered by the LEO in Donegal since 2014 and is a good indicator of the continuing support the LEO in Donegal offers to its clients.

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019   Year to date

No of clients

159

171

183

200

214

Data not available until Q1 2020

Total Jobs (FT   + PT)

1223   (748 + 475)

1132   (777 + 355)

1358   (842 + 516)

1193   (819 + 374)

1294   (870 + 424)

Gross Job   Gains (FT + PT)

361   (184 + 177)

370   (223 + 147)

364   (143 +221)

255   (169 + 86)

360   (207 +153)

Gross Job   Losses (FT + PT)

316   (138 + 178)

144   (83 + 61)

114   (52 + 62)

155   (81 + 74

157   (60 + 97)

Net new Jobs   (FT + PT)

45

226

250

100

203

Grant aid   Approved

€374,693

€233,088

€393,798

€458,895

€599,982

€341,961

No. of   Projects Paid

29

25

33

34

45

35

Training   Participants

984

1311

1362

1615

1,536

1,564

Mentoring   Participants

36

32

26

38

93

105

IBYE   Applications

36

59

65

51

N/A

54

Trading Online   Vouchers Approved

28

34

25

48

47

28

MFI   applications submitted

6

4

10

14

11

4

The final distribution of the funding provided in Budget 2020 between the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, its Enterprise Agencies and Regulatory Bodies is determined through the 2020 Revised Estimates Volume (REV) process which is currently nearing completion. It is expected that finalisation and publication of the 2020 REV allocations will be completed in early December 2019.

Retail Sector

Questions (71)

Martin Heydon

Question:

71. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the work she is undertaking to assist small businesses in the retail sector to develop an online presence; her views on the impact online shopping and digital transformation is having on the retail sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50038/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

As Chair of the Retail Consultation Forum, I am conscious of the impact of digital transformation for the retail sector. The growth in demand for shopping online is driving the retail sector more broadly to develop its online capability in order to enhance its competitiveness.

To enable retailers to increase their customer base and build a more resilient business, I introduced a new pilot Online Retail Scheme in 2018 administered by Enterprise Ireland. The Scheme, with a fund of up to €1.25m over two Calls, provided funding to 40 retailers across Ireland, with grants of between €10,000 and €25,000 on a 50 percent match fund basis. Eligible expenditure under the Scheme included activities required to strategically enhance retailer's online offering, and included: research, strategy development, implementation and relevant training. The Pilot Online Retail Scheme concluded this year we will review its effectiveness.

Additionally, the LEOs undertake a number of activities to encourage businesses to build their online presence and compete online. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme administered by the LEOs and funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, is designed to help micro businesses trade online to boost their sales and reach new markets. The Scheme is a matched-funding opportunity with up to €2,500 available, with training provided by Local Enterprise Offices. Funding can be used towards eligible costs such as digital marketing strategies, e-commerce websites or app development.

LEO Measure 2 supports including training in digital marketing, management development, Lean4Micro, Productivity Voucher and mentoring are available to all sectors including retailers.

I recently announced the successful projects under the LEO Competitive Fund. One project - the eCommerce Cluster project has a primary objective to support and educate online retailers in the North-East. Led by LEO Monaghan, in collaboration with LEO Cavan, Louth and Meath, the project will bring online retailers in the these counties together, to share experience and best practice, access online expertise and support members to develop and grow their online business domestically and internationally.

As set out in Future Jobs Ireland 2019, all businesses, regardless of size or sector, in today’s digital environment need to focus on building competitive online capability. In line with this, my Department has commenced a study on the retail sector to understand the full extent and impact of disruption to pre-existing business models in light of digital transformation.

I will continue to engage with the retail sector in relation to business developmental needs and objectives through the Retail Consultation Forum.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (72)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

72. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to increase the uptake in the various schemes to prepare businesses for Brexit; the particular efforts which will be made in County Cork; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50128/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

My Department and its agencies are working to provide extensive information, supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. These measures aim to assist businesses in Cork and across the country to identify key risk areas and the practical preparatory actions to be taken as we approach the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Government has held more than 100 Brexit information seminars and events since last September. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), including LEOs in Cork, are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. In addition to offering support and guidance, the LEOs act to signpost businesses to appropriate supports. They also participate in and run events related to Brexit.

The LEOs in Cork have run 14 Brexit-related events to date. These include Brexit Advice Clinics on 9 and 29 October, which facilitated discussions of concerns businesses have about Brexit and the effects it may have. On 18 October, a “Take the mystery out of Brexit” event was also run in Cork, which offered a practical information session explaining key Brexit-related issues and identifying common risks to Irish businesses and how best to deal with them. Further events are planned for December, including a Currency Risk Management workshop, as well as more general business advice events.

The LEOs also offer Brexit-specific mentoring to businesses. Up to the 22nd of November, 1,221 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. Of these, 77 were from Cork.

The Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short-term working capital, for terms of up to three years, to eligible businesses to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. As of 25 November, there have been 898 eligibility applications received, of which 810 have been approved and 214 loans progressed to sanction at bank level to a value of €46.68 million. The most recent quarterly report indicates that businesses in County Cork account for 9% of eligibility applications.

As the operators of the Scheme, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) have been actively promoting the Brexit Loan Scheme (BLS) and Future Growth Loan Scheme (FGLS). Officials from the SBCI attend numerous business-related events to inform and promote schemes. Promotional radio campaigns have been run at national and local level together with a digital campaign which included Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Officials from the SBCI have also attended accountant workshops to promote the scheme and make this cohort of advisers aware of it. These officials have also been present at Brexit-related events around the country to promote the scheme.

My Department has a dedicated Brexit page on its website which includes information on the schemes available. Officials have put together Brexit Loan Scheme and Future Growth Loan Scheme information packs which are available through my Department’s the website.

The Department has also published a report detailing the supports available to indigenous enterprises, including Brexit supports such as the Brexit Loan Scheme and Future Growth Loan Scheme. This sits alongside publications like the Quick Brexit Guide for Business and Currency Risk Management for Irish SMEs.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Reports

Questions (73)

Denis Naughten

Question:

73. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the requests made under section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission; her plans to make a further request; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50036/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

On 4 July 2017, a motion was passed by Dáil Éireann which called on the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to ask the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to report on the operation of the household waste collection market. Following a formal request on 25 September 2017 from the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, who has policy responsibility for the waste sector, the then Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, requested the CCPC to carry out a study on the operation of the household waste collection market.

The CCPC conducted its study into the household waste collection market and published its report on 28 September 2018. Any actions arising from the study are a policy matter for my colleague the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

In July 2019, I requested that the CCPC carry out a study of the public liability insurance market. The study will focus on how the market for public liability insurance is functioning and will make recommendations as to how any identified issues may be addressed. The CCPC has commenced its study and I understand that a procurement process was launched to seek the services of external economic consultants to expedite its delivery. These consultants will supplement the CCPC’s in-house expertise.  The CCPC has advised me that the study is a priority and it will be concluded as soon as practicable.

Ensuring fair competition while protecting consumer welfare is vital for the continued growth of the economy. When I become aware of serious issues of concern, I may invoke the powers under Section 10(4) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 to request that the CCPC conducts relevant studies or analysis relating to consumer protection and welfare, review any practice or method on competition affecting the supply and distribution of goods or the provision of services, or any other matter relating to competition.

Brexit Data

Questions (74)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

74. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the up-to-date statistics on the impact of Brexit uncertainty on job losses here; and the actions she is taking to replace such jobs. [49750/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Ever since Brexit first became a possibility, my Department and its agencies have worked to ensure that supports are in place so that Irish businesses can prepare for Brexit. That process has been further complicated by the ongoing uncertainty around the process by which the UK will exit the EU, however there is a range of supports in place for businesses negatively impacted by that uncertainty. These supports include advisory resources, financial supports and training supports to ensure that businesses can take appropriate steps in the face of uncertainty.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, the overall unemployment rate continues to decline. Moreover, B&A conduct a regular survey on behalf of my Department on the impact of Brexit on SMEs. In the most recent survey, conducted in October, when asked about staffing levels a significantly higher proportion were increasing employment than those reducing employment, and three quarters reported no change in employment.

My officials also hold regular meetings with representatives from key agencies and bodies  to get up to date feedback on Brexit exposed sectors and businesses, and to monitor the work these bodies are doing to support and work with businesses as they seek to mitigate their exposure to Brexit-related uncertainty.

My Department has put a number of schemes in place to provide finance options for viable firms that may be negatively impacted as a result of Brexit. The Brexit Loan Scheme provides a fund of up to €300 million to businesses to facilitate innovation, change or adaptation in response to the impacts of Brexit. Already, 214 businesses have been approved for bank loans under the scheme, to a total value of €46.68 million. The Future Growth Loan Scheme facilitates longer-term investment, for terms of 8-10 years, for a post-Brexit environment. To date, 535 firms have been approved loans by Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank, to a total value of €101.2 million. AIB recently began offering loans under the scheme and have a pipeline of applications from SBCI.

Beyond these, my Department has also worked to ensure that contingency measures are in place so that it can respond swiftly to changing circumstances if necessary. A Rescue and Restructuring Scheme has been developed to address businesses facing solvency issues where, without intervention, the business will almost certainly go out of business in the short or medium term. A Temporary Restructuring support is also in place for enterprises facing acute liquidity needs due to exceptional or unforeseen circumstances or which are in difficulty.

With this combination of supports, monitoring and contingencies, I hope that my Department and its agencies can respond in an appropriate manner to emerging issues arising as a result of Brexit-related uncertainty.

Local Enterprise Offices

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.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Questions (76)

Robert Troy

Question:

76. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding regional IDA Ireland site visits per county in addition to vacant IDA Ireland properties nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50139/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Regional development remains a key priority for myself and my Department. We understand the importance of achieving the best possible spread of employment and investment across the country and my Department and its Agencies have been working hard towards that goal. That will remain the case in 2020 and beyond. 

It is therefore very positive that significant progress has already been made towards that objective. For example, 58% of all IDA client-supported employment is now situated outside Dublin. This figure represents the highest level of regional employment in the history of the Agency and reflects the significant energy and resources invested into supporting regional development. We will be seeking to increase that number again in 2020.

As I have previously made clear, the availability of marketable serviced land and buildings in advance of demand is a key element in the IDA's ability to compete for mobile foreign direct investment. Not only does such a supply of properties help the Agency to secure high quality jobs but it also allows projects to begin at an earlier date by diminishing difficulties associated with land acquisition, planning and construction. It therefore remains an important means by which the IDA can encourage and attract new investors to regional Ireland. If such properties were not available to potential investors, it would decrease the likelihood that regional areas would be selected by overseas firms ahead of urban locations.

The IDA currently owns 27 properties across Ireland. Of these, 14 are occupied by Agency clients with the remainder available for prospective or existing clients.

As regards site visits, they do remain an important means by which the IDA can showcase regional locations to prospective investors. At the same time, we must recognise that the final decision as to where to invest always rests with the firm concerned. It is also the case, no matter what efforts we make to underline the undoubted benefits of regional locations, that certain overseas companies will only consider investing in large urban areas for various commercial or operational reasons.

Details on the number of site visits to individual counties, from 2018 until the third quarter of this year, are set out in the following table.

County

2018

Q1-Q3   2019

Carlow

7

7

Cavan

2

6

Clare

13

20

Cork

61

55

Donegal

8

6

Dublin

269

216

Galway

54

35

Kerry

10

4

Kildare

8

8

Kilkenny

5

12

Laois

10

5

Leitrim

6

2

Limerick

35

43

Longford

5

2

Louth

20

32

Mayo

10

3

Meath

6

3

Monaghan

3

4

Offaly

5

4

Roscommon

3

2

Sligo

15

24

Tipperary

5

6

Waterford

21

16

Westmeath

22

16

Wexford

3

4

Wicklow

1

6

Total

607

541

Company Law

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 48.

Questions (77)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

77. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to introduce reform legislation for limited partnerships; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49711/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Limited Partnerships have been an option for Irish businesses since their introduction in the Limited Partnerships Act 1907.

My Department began a review of the Act in 2018 as part of its ongoing policy agenda to review and enhance Ireland’s regulation and enforcement regime.

As part of the review process, my Department sought submissions from interested parties on a range of proposals for reform of limited partnerships. The public consultation was published on 18 January, and ended on 1 March 2019.

Thirteen submissions were received and were published on the Department’s website on 7 June.

My Department is currently developing draft legislation proposals with a view to submitting them to Government in the next legislative session.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 48.

Brexit Preparations

Questions (79)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

79. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which Ireland has identified new trading partners to compensate for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46374/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

While the UK is and will remain a major market for Irish companies, expanding the Irish export footprint in markets beyond the UK is a key priority. In that context, Enterprise Ireland’s strategy is to support Irish exporters to be more innovative, competitive and market diversified.

The Irish exporting landscape is strong and companies in Ireland are succeeding in winning business worldwide for their products and services.  Enterprise Ireland client companies achieved record levels of exports in 2018 of €23.8bn, against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. In 2018, the Eurozone region, which is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s diversification strategy, saw growth of 7.6% to €4.8bn, with Germany, France and the Netherlands each exceeding €1bn in exports. Exports to North America increased from €3.87bn in 2017 to €4.08bn in 2018, an increase of 5.5%.   Our Enterprise agencies are now opening new offices around the world to support our companies in competing and thriving in global markets.  

Ministerial-led Trade Missions support the Government's major drive towards market diversification.  The majority of trade missions are taking place to the Eurozone, North America and Asia Pacific, which represent the strongest growth opportunities for Irish companies.   These Trade Missions focus on promoting the innovative capabilities and competitive offerings of Irish companies to international buyers in sectors including internationally traded services, fintech, high-tech construction, engineering, ICT and lifesciences.   

As well as the global efforts supported by our agencies, key to our success has been our commitment to trade liberalisation in order to open new markets for our indigenous sectors. The EU has successfully concluded a number of important trade agreements with trading partners and is in the process of negotiating or upgrading its agreements with many more. The existing suite of EU Free Trade Agreements and new trade deals will continue to be very important for Ireland. With a small domestic market, further expansion in other markets is essential to our continued economic growth and, in this regard, Ireland will continue to support the EU’s ambitious programme of negotiating new Free Trade Agreements, opening new markets for Irish companies and increasing export and investment opportunities.

IDA Ireland Data

Questions (80)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

80. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of IDA Ireland visits to County Meath in 2019; and the number of IDA Ireland units which are occupied and vacant in County Meath. [49964/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Government is committed to supporting job creation and investment in the regions. This remains a key priority. That is why my Department and its agencies are working towards ambitious targets to ensure that employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country. Total employment in IDA Ireland's client companies now stands at over 230,000, with 58% of all IDA employment outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed by IDA clients outside of Dublin in the history of the Agency.  

It is encouraging to note that County Meath experienced a 4% increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) employment in 2018. There are now 19 IDA-supported client companies in the County employing over 1,600 people. Meath continues, in particular, to maintain a strong contingent of overseas firms in the Financial Services, Manufacturing and Biotechnology sectors with key clients such as ArcRoyal, International Fund Services and Alltech performing well in the County.

IDA Ireland continues to draw the attention of investors considering locating or expanding to Meath and the broader Mid-East region. As of the third quarter of this year there has been three IDA site visits in County Meath. In 2018 there was a twofold increase in site visits by prospective investors with six site visits taking place last year compared to three visits in 2017. 

IDA Ireland does not own any buildings in County Meath. Meath County Council obtained planning permission for an Advanced Technology Building (ATB) on IDA owned lands at the Business and Technology Park (B&T) in Navan. These lands were subsequently purchased by Emeri Nutrition, on a leasehold basis, on which they constructed an ATB. The Agency will keep the property situation in Meath under review to help ensure that companies can find the facilities or buildings they need in order to generate new jobs and investment.

While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities in County Meath, the Government remains determined to achieve more. That is why work is continuing to unlock further the economic potential of the County. The IDA remains pivotal to this and the Agency is engaging with its clients and with other enterprise agencies to create jobs and source new investment there.

Economic Growth

Questions (81)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

81. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which she continues to encourage investment on the island of Ireland with a view to ensuring the continued prosperity North and South, notwithstanding issues arising from Brexit; if further initiatives are planned to enhance the continued development of economies North and South with equally beneficial results; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50045/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland are closely connected. The benefits of free and open trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland have become readily apparent and we have been working –particularly through the services offered by InterTradeIreland (ITI) – to promote trade and business on an all-island and cross-border basis.  

InterTradeIreland ITI is one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement. The body is jointly funded by my Department and its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Department for the Economy. ITI’s objective is to support businesses, through innovation and trade initiatives, to take advantage of North South co-operative opportunities, driving competitiveness, jobs and growth. ITI helps small businesses explore new cross-border markets, develop new products and services and become investor ready. 

ITI is playing a major role as part of the Government’s wider Brexit response. ITI’s Brexit Advisory Service, which provides a range of advice and supports to eligible businesses, has already engaged – this year alone – with more than 4,500 SMEs. I increased ITI’s capital allocation by €1m this year and I intend to increase it again in 2020, to enable it to provide a range of initiatives aimed at assisting SMEs to prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

My Department also provided funding for a series of research reports, undertaken by the ESRI on behalf of ITI, which assessed the potential implications of Brexit for cross-border trade. This research has helped us to better understand the implications of Brexit on existing trade and to identify the sectors and business types which are most likely to need support in preparation for the changing trading relationship ahead of us.

ITI marks its 20th anniversary of promoting cross-border trade this year. During that time, the body has assisted over 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and has generated more than £1bn/€1.2billion in business development value through its programmes and initiatives. Cross border trade now stands at an all-time high and we will continue to support its growth, notwithstanding the challenges presented by Brexit, in the years ahead.

Job Losses

Questions (82)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

82. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the actions taken to protect and assist workers in a company (details supplied) which announced proposed job losses of approximately 500 recently; if an application has been made to the European Globalisation Fund; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49933/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The decision by Molex to close its facility in Shannon was deeply disappointing.  I fully understand how important an employer this company has been to the area and the role it has played in supporting jobs and enterprise in the Mid-West. 

My immediate concern has of course been for the workers and families who stand to be impacted. My Department and I are already working, as best we can, to address the consequences for the employees and the Shannon region.

Soon after learning of the intended closure, I spoke directly with the CEO of the company and made it clear that the Irish Government very much regretted the firm’s decision. Unfortunately, as he explained, the decision was irreversible.

I also travelled to Shannon, together with Minister of State Breen, to convene a meeting of key stakeholders. This included representatives from the State’s principal enterprise agencies, Government Departments, Clare County Council, Third Level institutions and the local business community. Our collective focus was to determine how best to respond and to assist those employees who would be impacted by the closure. 

Following that meeting, an action plan was agreed with Molex to support the skills development needs of its workers and to help them find alternative employment. Many of those impacted have valuable skills and experience and the IDA, together with other stakeholders, will be drawing the attention of potential employers to their availability. The IDA will also be working separately to market the facility to prospective investors and to find new investment for the area. 

Looking further ahead, we will need – as was collectively agreed at the stakeholder meeting – to ensure we create new opportunities across the wider Mid-West region that can help offset many of these job losses. The Mid-West Regional Enterprise Plan – which I launched earlier this year – will be a critical tool in that respect.

While the Molex closure undeniably represents a significant blow for Shannon and the wider area, it remains the case that the Mid-West is performing well in economic terms. The region has seen significant investment in the last three years and key employers include many large-scale manufacturing employers such as Beckton Dickinson, Edwards Lifesciences, Analog Devices, Johnson and Johnson, Regeneron, Stryker and Zimmer. We are therefore optimistic that further new opportunities can be created for the area in the time ahead.

Applications to the European Globalisation Fund (EGF) are managed by the Department of Education and Skills (D/ES). Particular eligibility criteria apply for applications to the EGF, including the number of redundancies, the time period involved, the circumstances in which the redundancies arise and their impact on the local, regional and national economy. Any application for EGF support must also demonstrate a link between the redundancies and major structural changes in world trade patterns due to globalisation. In relation to Molex, I understand that D/ES is currently assessing the situation and whether an application under the EGF would be possible.

Workplace Relations Services Data

Questions (83, 94)

Bríd Smith

Question:

83. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of cases heard at the Workplace Relations Commission in 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of adjudicators employed by the commission; the number of appeals to decisions of adjudicators; the time taken for cases to be heard; and her plans for the commission for the coming year. [43635/19]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

94. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the staff numbers at the WRC including adjudicators; the average time taken to have cases heard and appeals decided; and the number of cases heard in 2018 and to date in 2019. [50382/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83 and 94 together.

The Workplace Relations Commission is an office under the aegis of my Department. The WRC is staffed by 176 civil servants who are part of the overall staffing of my Department. Table 1 sets out the number and grades of staff employed at the WRC. In addition, the WRC’s Adjudications Service is supplemented by a cohort of 44 independent contractor adjudicators recruited through the Public Appointments Service (PAS).

WRC

Grade

Person Count

Director General

1.0

PO

5.0

AP*

19.2

Solicitor

0.7

Legal Advisor (AP)

0.8

HEO

24.0

AO

2.0

EO

66.9

CO

56.5

Grand Total

176.1

*7.2 full time equivalents are civil servant Adjudication Officers.

In the period 1 January to 31 December 2018, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) held 5,312 adjudication hearings. In the period 1st January to 31st October 2019, the WRC held 4,141 adjudication hearings. Under employment rights and industrial relations legislation, it is open to either party to appeal the decision of a WRC Adjudicator to the Labour Court. The WRC’s 2018 Annual Report indicates that approximately 10% of adjudication decisions are appealed annually to the Labour Court. Equal Status decisions are appealable to the Circuit Court.

In 2018, over 90% of complaints received by the WRC’s Adjudication Service were processed from receipt of complaint to decision issuing within six months, where there were no requests for postponement and where submissions were received in a timely manner. In the period January to October 2019, the median time for decisions to issue from date of receipt of complaint is 8.2 months. Factors impacting processing times include postponements being sought, delays in the parties making submissions to the WRC or the parties may have attempted to mediate the dispute. The WRC intends, following consultation with stakeholders, to introduce a new pilot procedure for seeking postponements, which should impact positively on processing times. Another factor impacting processing times is the volume of complaints received by the WRC for adjudication. This year to end of October 2019, the WRC received a 44% increase in specific complaints in comparison to the same period last year.

The WRC will continue to maintain and improve the level of quality service being delivered in 2020. Key objectives for the Commission next year include the reduction of the median time for processing adjudication complaints by an additional two weeks on 2019, ensuring a smooth transition of An Garda Síochána to access the services of the WRC and the targeting of more “at risk” employers and sectors by the Inspection and Enforcement Division.

In 2018 the Labour Court received a total of 1169 cases which include appeals of WRC Adjudication Officers decisions and industrial relations referrals. The Court scheduled 954 hearings and the average time for cases to reach hearing in 2018 was 12 weeks in respect of industrial relations cases and 19 weeks in respect of employment rights cases. In 2019 to end October, the Labour Court received 865 appeals/referrals and scheduled 902 hearings. During that period, the average time for cases to reach hearing was 17 weeks in respect of industrial relations cases and 26 weeks in respect of employment rights cases.

Factors affecting these times include postponements being sought, delays by the parties making submissions to the Labour Court or are the consequence of the Labour Court’s commitment to the formation of hearing programmes in the regions which involve appropriate workloads and as a result optimal value for money. A key factor affecting timelines for employment rights cases is that the process of bringing an Employment Equality and Unfair Dismissals case to hearing involves provision of time to make comprehensive written submissions before arrangements can be made to schedule a hearing.

The average time taken for the Court to issue its decisions/recommendations following a hearing in 2018 was 2 weeks. The Court issued 504 decisions/recommendations in 2018. The average time in 2019 to end October was 3 weeks and the Court issued 449 decisions/recommendations in that period.

European Labour Authority

Questions (84)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

84. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the way in which the newly established European Labour Authority will support the work of agencies under the aegis of her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49710/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Regulation (EU) 2019/1149 establishing a European Labour Authority (ELA) was adopted on 20 June 2019 and entered into force on 31 July 2019.

The European Labour Authority has the following objectives:

- Facilitate access to information and services to citizens and business about their rights and obligations,

- Facilitate cooperation between Member States in the enforcement of Union law within its scope, including by facilitating concerted and joint inspections, as well as by tackling undeclared work,

- Mediate and facilitate, if necessary, solutions in cases of cross-border disputes. 

The Management Board of the European Labour Authority is composed of one representative from each Member State, two representatives from the European Commission, one independent expert appointed by the European Parliament and four members representing cross-industry social partner organisations at EU level, with an equal representation of trade union and employer organisations. 

My colleague the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection in consultation with my Department has nominated a senior official of the WRC as Ireland's representative on the European Labour Authority (ELA). She has also nominated a senior official from her own Department as the alternate member. It is anticipated that the ELA will support the work of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection by providing information and services to citizens and business, facilitating cooperation and exchange of information between Member States and supporting  them through concerted and joint inspections in order to fight abuse, fraud and undeclared work.

Brexit Supports

Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 57.

Questions (85)

Alan Kelly

Question:

85. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the funding provided to the sectors most affected by Brexit through the Brexit loan scheme in 2018 and to date in 2019; the number of companies that have benefited; the funding provided through the future growth loan scheme to date in 2019; and the number of companies that have benefited. [46863/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Brexit Loan Scheme launched in March of 2018 and provides relatively short-term working capital, for terms of up to three years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. As part of the application process for the Brexit Loan Scheme, applicants must demonstrate their exposure to Brexit.

As of 25 November, there have been 898 eligibility applications received, of which 810 have been approved and 214 loans progressed to sanction at bank level to a value of €46.68 million. It should be noted that 160 applications received relate to repeat/duplicate applications, as eligibility expires after six months.

As of the most recent quarterly report on the scheme, three sectors accounted for almost 80% of the approved eligibility applications. A third of approved applications were from the manufacturing (including food processing) sector, while wholesale and retail accounted for 21%, and information and communication was at 22%. The funding provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine ensures that 40% of the fund will be made available to food businesses, which operate in a sector identified as most exposed to potential difficulties arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Of the loans sanctioned to date, €9.56 million has been to food businesses.

While some businesses will be exposed to sectorial impacts, other factors may be more significant indicators of Brexit exposure. Businesses in the Border counties are more likely to be exposed to Brexit-related impacts. Dublin aside, the most recent quarterly report indicates that the border region is the most active region in terms of eligibility applications for the scheme.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme opened for eligibility applications in April 2019. This scheme provides a longer-term facility, 8-10 years, of up to €300m to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit environment.

The scheme is open to eligible Irish businesses, including those in the primary agriculture, food and seafood sectors, to support strategic, long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment.  As of 25 November, there have been 2,149 applications for eligibility under the scheme, of which 2,017 have been approved by SBCI. 535 firms have been approved loans by Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank, to a total value of €101.2 million. AIB recently began offering loans under the scheme and have a pipeline of applications from SBCI.

Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 57.

Manufacturing Sector

Questions (87)

Peter Burke

Question:

87. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the new industry 4.0 strategy which is being developed; the role envisaged for a centre (details supplied) as part of this strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49967/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Future Jobs Ireland, our new economic pathway for Ireland, acknowledges the challenges resulting from the digitalisation of industry and signals Ireland’s ambition, not just to respond, but to embrace the opportunities offered. My Department is finalising an Industry 4.0 Strategy that I will shortly bring to Government.

The manufacturing sector is a critical part of Ireland’s economy. It supports 227,000 jobs directly and 4 out of 5 of those jobs are outside Dublin. Ireland has successfully established a global reputation in manufacturing sectors such as Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals, Food and Drink, Medical Devices, Computers and Electronics, and Engineering .

Ireland is well positioned to the be at forefront of Industry 4.0 with world-class industrial capabilities, a thriving community of indigenous supply chain SMEs and the presence of world-leading software and ICT companies.

Because the technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution are developing so rapidly, R&D will play a key role in ensuring that Ireland is at the forefront of Industry 4.0. To ensure that Ireland stays ahead of the curve, Government has already invested in a number of research centres, including the Irish Manufacturing Research Centre funded by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.

The research, technology development and demonstration activities undertaken by IMR are “state of the art” to match the needs of Irish Industry.

The Mullingar location was established as an Additive Manufacturing centre to help Irish companies to assess the potential of component fabrication using additive manufacturing, known as 3D printing, as well as evaluating the introduction of this technology in their manufacturing operations. The laboratories situated in IMR Mullingar have several specialist production capabilities which are unique in the country, such as state-of-art additive manufacturing equipment and CNC machining equipment, along with cobotics and automation technology facilities.

On foot of Regional Enterprise Development funding, IMR Mullingar will be the location of pilot lines and will provide space hungry equipment facilities including:  an advanced manufacturing lab; a machining lab; Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies; pre-production pilot lines; along with robotics, digital manufacturing and sustainable manufacturing labs. 

Each of these components are key elements of Industry 4.0, and as such the Irish Manufacturing Research Centre will be a fundamental component to the delivery of the Industry 4.0 Strategy.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Questions (88)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

88. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if there are foreign direct investment visits planned for County Kildare during the remainder of 2019 and into 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49751/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Government is working hard to achieve the most even possible distribution of foreign direct investment (FDI) across the country. IDA Ireland is focused on that same goal, with the Agency targeting an increase of investment of 30%-40% in every region as part of their current strategy. The Agency's 2018 results demonstrate that significant progress is being made towards these objectives, with 56% of all net new IDA client company jobs created last year being outside Dublin. There are now over 132,000 people employed across 681 firms in IDA client companies outside the capital.

Whilst site visits are an important tool in helping showcase regional locations to investors, it is important to remember - as I have made clear before - that the final decision as to where to invest rests solely with the company concerned. It is also the case that site visit activity does not necessarily reflect investment potential, as a significant proportion of all new FDI comes from existing IDA clients already present in the country.

For commercial sensitivity reasons, IDA Ireland can only make data available on site visits that have already taken place. Over the first three quarters of this year, County Kildare has hosted eight site visits.

FDI levels in County Kildare are trending in the right direction. Kildare experienced a 4.5% increase in IDA-supported employment in 2018, with the creation of 386 net new jobs. The enterprise agencies under my remit will continue to engage with their clients and with one another to secure further investment and job creation for Kildare and the Mid-East region in the time ahead.

Future Growth Loan Scheme

Questions (89)

Peter Burke

Question:

89. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the drawdown under the future growth loan scheme; the way in which this scheme is benefitting small businesses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [49966/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The Future Growth Loan Scheme makes available a fund of up to €300 million of loans available for terms of eight to ten years. I am acutely aware that small and microenterprises can face particular difficulty in accessing appropriate finance. My Department has, in partnership with the Department of Finance, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and the European Investment Fund, developed this scheme to support these firms in this time of Brexit uncertainty.

The scheme is also open to businesses in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors. Loans offered under the scheme are for terms are longer than is typically available in the market and support businesses as they seek to make strategic, long-term investment. Finance provided under the scheme is also competitively priced and has favourable terms, for example, no security is required for loans up to €500,000.

Loans to businesses under the scheme can be used to fund investments in equipment, machinery, buildings and associated overhead costs for organisational and/or process innovation.  Loans to primary agriculture under the scheme can be used to fund investment in tangible and intangible assets on agricultural holdings linked to primary agricultural production. 

The Future Growth Loan Scheme features a two-stage application process. Applications for eligibility under the scheme are made through the SBCI website. The SBCI assesses the applications and successful applicants are issued an eligibility reference number.

Eligible businesses may then apply for a loan under the scheme with one of the participating finance providers using the eligibility reference number. Approval of loans under this scheme is subject to the finance providers’ own credit policies and procedures. 

As of 25 November, there have been 2,149 applications for eligibility under the scheme, of which 2,017 have been approved by SBCI. 535 firms have been approved loans by Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank, to a total value of €101.2 million. AIB recently began offering loans under the scheme and have a pipeline of applications from SBCI.