Thursday, 3 October 2013
County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed)
I will speak briefly to the Bill which I welcome. As one who was a member of an enterprise board in Waterford for a number of years, I recognise the work enterprise boards have done not alone in my city but throughout the country. They have been quite successful. I compliment the staff, past and present, the board members and the evaluation committees who did such tremendous work down the years. I hope that as a result of setting up these LEOs we will not lose all the expertise that was available to enterprise boards. When entrepreneurs were going about their business, they were helped by enterprise boards but what they wanted was a one-stop-shop for local entrepreneurs. They wanted information on State supports and developments of services. While the enterprise board could give them quite an amount of that information, bringing these offices in under the umbrella of the local authority - the vast majority of the members of board were local authority members who gave tremendous service to the boards - is a change in local government. It gives more power back to local government in that it is involved in enterprise. This should be welcomed by officials and members of local authorities. There is nobody better placed in the community than the local authority to have a one-stop-shop, bringing together these bodies. We all know that micro-enterprise and the small business sector are the backbone and the lifeblood of the community and that they provide many jobs.
I welcome that while the LEOs are coming under Enterprise Ireland and will be in the local authorities, they will be supported by a centre of excellence, by Enterprise Ireland. The addition of the functions of that centre will include promoting innovation and best practice and approach to supporting start-up and entrepreneurship, working with the LEOs to design and deliver appropriate national training and management development programmes at local level, and developing a common approach to mentoring and mentor management. That is to be welcomed. These are types of supports that people starting off in business want. They want and need to be mentored. I am delighted to say that many of the small businesses that started up through enterprise boards have gone to on to be under the umbrella of Enterprise Ireland when they created ten or more jobs. It is a follow-on brining all these bodies together under Enterprise Ireland and it is to be welcomed. It is part of the jobs action programme. These LEOs will play a important role in creating jobs. If we could get micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to create only one job in each of them, we would probably solve our unemployment problem. That is the importance of that sector. The Government is and will continue to support this sector at every possible opportunity. Regarding loans for businesses, I am sure the Minister of State will outline the number of areas where businesses can get help from the State sector other than going to the banks.
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I also welcome the Bill before us. I hope that the LEO sector will prosper and provide the necessary jobs which we need for our young people in particular.