Thursday, 3 October 2013
County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed)
I welcome the Minister of State and support the legislation. It is important we do not lose sight of the fact that county enterprise boards were established to help get small businesses up and running. Let us not lose sight of that goal. Smaller companies employ a large number of people. The boards arose due to an over-reliance on the IDA which focused greatly on the larger companies. The county enterprise boards did a great amount of work to level the playing field. They ensured that people who wanted to establish or grow their business could access the relevant information.
There is a need to co-ordinate the support groups provided by the local authority or educational institutions for small enterprise. I was involved in a project where it was discovered that departments in a local authority were not co-ordinating. That was unfortunate and the project was delayed for quite a long period. I hope the amalgamation of services in the local authority will eliminate any difficulties experienced by small enterprise. It was a planning issue that delayed the project that I referred to, but problems could range from a minor planning issue to compliance with health and safety regulations, etc. I hope services can be streamlined and obstacles removed. Obviously, there must be full compliance with regulations and legislation.
During the period 1994 to 1997, when Deputy Richard Bruton was the Minister, we created 1,000 jobs per week. We are moving towards that level again, and I hope that 1,000 jobs marker is not far away. At present, an additional 3,000 people have been returning to work every month over recent months, and I hope the figure continues to grow.
There is a need to focus on areas located outside of Dublin because we have already seen problems.
I know that, when trying to create jobs, one cannot pick and choose where companies locate. However, we are already seeing the knock-on benefits in the Dublin area where there is an increased demand for accommodation for people and commercial premises. It is therefore important that we work closely with and encourage new businesses to establish outside Dublin, whether that is in cities such as Cork, Galway, Limerick or Waterford or in smaller towns.
It is difficult when a company is about to invest large sums of money in creating jobs - one has to walk on eggshells and must not be seen to be setting down too many restrictions relating to establishment on them. We need to keep that in mind, especially where we have third level institutions that can give a lot of back-up support to companies. In particular, the institutes of technology do a superb job in preparing people for work. It is also important the institutes of technology, the third level institutions and our schools look at where the jobs will be. A mistake that was made over the past ten to 15 years was the lack of focus on the changing job market. As I said in the House earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking to a person who has a good qualification. Even though it was not a third level qualification, he was offered jobs in three different countries at the same time. He had a difficult choice to make and it was interesting talking to him about that. It would be great if we had many more people who had such choice, and that is something that we need to work towards.
I welcome the legislation. It is about co-ordination of services, making sure that all the obstacles are removed and encouraging people to take a risk. People take a financial risk when they set up a business; there is also a risk about the hours that must be put in. No one who sets up a business works 25, 30 or 35 hours a week. I assure Members that as someone who has been self-employed for the past 30 years, I found - others Members will have found this in their own businesses and the Minister will find it in carrying out his role - I put in on average 60 to 80 hours a week, which is needed in order for businesses to survive. The private sector has given that level of commitment over the years. It is therefore important that, when we get that commitment from people who are prepared to put their hands in their pockets and take the risk, then we, too, should take the risk by ensuring they get all the possible support available and the playing pitch is levelled for them, so that they can move forward and create jobs.