The Western Development Commission has achieved much since was it established in 1999. It now has an important role to play in supporting the Government's objectives for more effective regional development through initiatives such as the National Planning Framework, the Regional Action PLans for Jobs and the Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) project.
The Commission has been allocated just over €2 million for operational purposes for 2019. This represents an increase of €500,000 on their 2018 allocation. The additional funding which I secured for 2019 will allow the Commission to support the work of the AEC initiative and to maximise the use of the Western Investment Fund which provides financing for micro-enterprises and SMEs in the Western region.
The AEC project is a collaborative initiative, involving public and private stakeholders working together to maximise the strengths and assets of the cities and towns along our Western seaboard, from Donegal to Kerry, to attract investment, support jobs and improve the quality of life of those who live and work in the region. The project is overseen by the Atlantic Economic Corridor Taskforce, which I chair.
As the AEC initiative develops and grows, the importance of strengthening the collaboration between stakeholders and in communicating the AEC's potential to investors is paramount. In this context, the Western Development Commission has agreed to take on a co-ordinating role to support the work of the AEC Taskforce and its subgroups.
The WDC also operates the Western investment Fund, which was established on a revolving basis, meaning that all investments are repayable and reinvested back into Western-based enterprises. At the start of 2018, the WDC Investment Fund had €21.4 million available for reinvestment in Small and Medium Enterprises, micro-enterprises, and Community and Social Enterprises in the Western region.
In addition, through the Fund, the Commission implements initiatives to support the development of SMEs and emerging sectors in the western region, including a €2 million fund to encourage the film, television, animation and games industry in the West of the country.
The extra funding provided to the Commission for 2019 will enable them to reach out to a greater number of enterprises with the Western Investment Fund.