In the face of the pandemic, Ireland’s Local Enterprise Offices have reported increases in training and the use of Trading Online Vouchers.
Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) across Ireland now support 7,529 businesses and some 35,000 jobs, according to the network’s annual results.
Supported by the Government, the LEOs supported companies created 5,585 new jobs in 2020.
“LEOs are at the very heart of business in communities across the country”
Despite the new jobs created, there was a net jobs loss of 1,494 across the LEO portfolio of client companies in what was a challenging year for small businesses.
To the fore in supporting small business
The Local Enterprise Offices were to the fore in supporting small businesses across the country in 2020, helping thousands to pivot online or adapt their products and services through new Government supports introduced as part of the July Stimulus Package.
“2020 was a challenging year for everyone, and small businesses were no different,” said Padraic McElwee, chair of the LEO network.
“The Local Enterprise Offices were to the fore in trying to help these companies pivot or adapt their businesses to sustain through the issues caused by Covid and Brexit.”
The LEOs approved 13,091 Trading Online Vouchers to assist businesses get online to trade or improve their existing online offering. This was up over 950% from 1,218 in 2019 and proved to be a vital resource for many businesses helping to reach their customers.
2020 also saw the successful transition of 133 companies from the Local Enterprise Offices to Enterprise Ireland as they continue to scale and look to international markets.
The LEOs provided significant training and mentoring to small businesses in 2020 to help them navigate the particularly difficult trading environment created by Covid-19 and Brexit. Last year, the Local Enterprise Offices trained over 77,000 entrepreneurs and business representatives, up from 37,000 the year previous. 16,231 completed business mentoring assignments up from 10,756 in 2019.
“The figures show the level of support that was given, both financially and through training, mentoring and significantly, the work done in getting small companies online to ensure they could continue to reach their customers,” McElwee said.
“While the challenging environment still exists for many, we have also seen the best of Irish business. Whether that is in their innovations to help in the fight against Covid or companies pivoting their businesses quickly to adapt and survive or seeing that strong sense of local pride with companies helping each other in their own communities and the Local Enterprise Offices have tried to help where we can along the way.”
In 2020, over €22m was approved by Local Enterprise Offices to clients for projects across the year to help improve their businesses in a range of areas. This figure was up from €20m in 2019 and is the largest amount of approved funding by the Local Enterprise Offices to small businesses to date.
“Our Local Enterprise Offices play a really important role in fostering enterprise across the country,” Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, said.
“In the face of unprecedented challenges, our LEOs managed to pivot and adapt quickly, to help their network of local businesses endure the crisis of the pandemic. When small businesses needed help more than ever, their virtual door was always open and they were able to train, fund and mentor more businesses last year than ever before.
“LEOs are at the very heart of business in communities across the country. The work they do is invaluable and I want to express my particular appreciation to all LEO staff for their professionalism and commitment. I know 2020 was a really difficult year for them and for the businesses they help. The coming months will be similarly busy as we reopen our economy and help businesses get back on their feet. I know LEOs will be to the forefront as we rebuild after the pandemic.”
By John Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published: 21 April 2021