The importance of supporting indigenous businesses by helping them remain profitable and to diversify when they experience difficulties was emphasised by Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey during a recent Dáil debate.
After asking Enterprise and Innovation Minister Heather Humphreys for her plans to support small and medium sized businesses in rural areas, Deputy Carey said that almost 70 per cent of the workforce was employed by SMEs.
“These smaller enterprises are often overlooked, with greater focus being placed on foreign direct investment and large multinationals receiving a lot of media attention ahead of the smaller companies that create the economies in our cities, suburbs, towns and villages.
In County Clare, there is a strong multinational footprint. We are sixth in the country. We have a thriving SME sector which continues to grow, with businesses going from strength to strength. In addition, there are new start-ups. Furthermore, our restaurants, hotels and retailers continue to employ hundreds and create economic activity by providing quality services.
Emphasis is often placed on new start-ups in establishing new businesses, and rightly so, but we also need to work on supporting existing businesses and helping them to remain profitable and to diversify when they experience difficulties,” he said.
Stating that she had allocated an extra €5 million to the 31 local enterprise offices to support SMEs in the last budget, Minister Humphreys told Deputy Carey that as well as providing grants to businesses with ten or fewer employees, they can also provide advice and soft support to other SMEs.
“Sometimes that is a big help to businesses in increasing productivity and improving their management skills, which in turn increases their competitiveness.
“We need to consider how to improve productivity among SMEs so they will be ready and able to adapt in a changing world. That will be a key focus of the Future Jobs initiative, which will be launched by my Department in early 2019,” she explained.
After Deputy Carey asked if she envisaged further investment in the local enterprise offices, thereby expanding their remit and improving their operations, Minister Humphreys said the additional €5 million Budget allocation represented a 22 per cent increase which was considerable.
“Enterprise Ireland-supported job announcements in 2017 and 2018 in the mid-west included 80 jobs in CAE Parc Aviation in Shannon and Dublin in May 2017, 150 jobs in H&MV Engineering in Limerick in January 2018, and 18 jobs in Croom Precision in Limerick in July 2018.
“Enterprise Ireland client companies saw an increase in employment in the mid-west of 7% in 2017 by comparison with the national average of five per cent. There was €1.7 million investment from the regional enterprise development fund for a project in County Clare to provide specialist infrastructure for maritime related training and field research support. This helps the indigenous companies to consider more innovation and research,” the Minister concluded.