My Department and its agencies are working hard to support small businesses to give them the tools and assistance they need to grow and flourish. Regional development is a key priority of the Government and I am focused on supporting and sustaining existing employment levels while also working to create new economic opportunities and jobs in the regions, including Co. Cork.
Earlier this year I launched the Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, a refresh and refocus of the Regional Action Plan for Jobs, which includes the South-West Regional Enterprise Plan, covering counties Cork and Kerry. The priority focus of the Plan is on building capability and resilience in the region’s enterprise base, developing the region’s enterprise hubs and tourism sector, supporting growth in the region’s marine and maritime sector and ensuring the availability of skills and talent to underpin the region’s economic growth potential.
The enterprise agencies under my remit play a key role in achieving those objectives, with a comprehensive range of supports provided to companies by Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and IDA Ireland.
Enterprise Ireland is actively working with companies with global ambition in Co. Cork to drive competitiveness, innovation and market diversification. In 2018, 24,444 people were employed in Enterprise Ireland supported companies in Co. Cork. Enterprise Ireland has also approved funding for a number of projects in Co. Cork under Calls 1 and 2 of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF), with the South-West Region securing funding of over €10.8 million.
The network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) nationwide is a very useful first port of call for small businesses seeking supports and for people who wish to start their own business. LEO Cork North & West has been engaging extensively with local businesses in the North Cork area this year, with a wide range of programmes delivered, including Trading Online Seminars, Start Your Own Business & 10 Steps to Self-Employment Programme, Management Development Programmes including LEAN for Micro, and tailored programmes to support Female Entrepreneurship.
Last week, as part of the LEO Competitive Fund 2019-2020, I approved funding of €100,000 to support the LINC cluster of 40 engineering firms in the North Cork and East/ West Limerick area. LINC works on behalf of member companies to build and deepen linkages with other businesses, third level institutions and Regional Skills Forums.
Cork has traditionally been a strong performer in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI). This trend is continuing, with a steady and positive increase in employment numbers in IDA Ireland client companies in the County over the past number of years. There are currently 169 IDA client companies in Cork, employing approximately 38,867 people.
While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities at a regional level, the Government remains committed to achieve even more. Accordingly, my Department and its agencies will continue its efforts to secure quality and sustainable jobs throughout the regions, including in north-west Co. Cork.