Thursday, 31 January 2019

Ceisteanna (43)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

43. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to enhance the role of the local enterprise offices; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4468/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) are the ‘first-stop-shop’ for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and ‘soft’ supports in the form of training and mentoring to anyone wishing to start or grow a business.

The LEOs can offer direct grant aid to microenterprises (10 employees or fewer) in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors 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); and Business Development Grants for existing businesses that want to expand.

I have allocated additional funding of €5 million in Budget 2019 for the Local Enterprise Offices. This brings the (LEO) capital allocation for 2019 to €27.5m, a significant increase of 22% on the 2018 figure.

Since their establishment, the LEOs have responded with impressive jobs growth and initiatives to stimulate new ideas and new ventures locally. For instance, at the end of 2017, the numbers employed across the LEO supported client companies was 37,485.

In particular, having regard to the challenges presented by Brexit, the additional funding will enable the LEOs to focus on supporting, strengthening and building resilience for commercial start-ups, micro - enterprises and local businesses that will sustain and create good quality jobs in every town and County. As part of the new funding, additional resources of Business Advisors, to focus on key clients with growth potential or in need of devising a plan to counteract the impacts of Brexit, will be made available on a competitive basis across the LEO network.

Another significant measure open to all LEO clients will be the €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme which addresses gaps in the market place for loan terms of longer than 5 – 10 years.

The partnership between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities is one of the key components in the success of the LEO network nationally.  To encourage best practice and to stimulate innovation, elements of the additional funding will be allocated on a competitive basis, supporting high quality collaborative initiatives that maximise the potential to support local and regional job creation.

I am informed that the LEOs will continue to work with the broad range of indigenous enterprises across sectors to ensure soft supports in the form of training, mentoring and targeted programmes to ensure that they are informed and have plans in place to manage the new trading relationships on the island and with the UK more generally. This will include, as a priority, a new customs training programme for all businesses, exporters and importers, to be rolled out in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland.

These new initiatives will be rolled out over the coming months and I will continue to monitor and assess progress and needs over the coming period so the LEOs are best placed to support local enterprise development in all counties.  

Question No. 44 answered with Question No. 31.