The Enterprise Ireland annual report showed 2018 was a strong year, but challenges loom ahead.
Today (9 January), Enterprise Ireland released its End of Year Statement for 2018, which showed a major regional boost in employment.
2018 represented a record high for the agency, with total employment in Enterprise Ireland-supported firms standing at 215,207. More than 60pc of client employment was located outside Ireland’s capital. Key sectors included life sciences, construction and food.
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, said: “These record results are a great achievement and a testament to the resilience of Irish companies in the context of Brexit. They are particularly welcome in the context of similarly strong results from IDA-supported companies in 2018.
“I am especially pleased that 61pc of the jobs created were from regionally based companies and to see that there were increases in every region. In addition to providing employment, these State-backed companies make a significant contribution to the economy and spent €26.8bn in 2017.”
Brexit doubts are a concern
Although the employment landscape is looking healthy, Brexit preparations were emphasised in the report as a crucial step for all organisations. CEO of Enterprise Ireland, Julie Sinnamon, noted that the 29 March Brexit deadline represents uncertainty for many businesses. “Ongoing doubt about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, currency volatility, transition arrangements, customs/logistics and potential delays in investment activity are key concerns for exporters.
“While 85pc of our clients have taken Brexit actions, our continuous efforts to support our clients to innovate, diversify and compete will ramp up so that Irish businesses are equipped to mitigate against the fallout of Brexit and build on the strength of the 2018 results.”
Enterprise Ireland supporting those affected
Enterprise Ireland approved €74m in funding for 535 of its clients at a high level of risk from the forthcoming exit of the UK from the EU, and it is liaising with many exporting firm companies to create contingency plans.
More than 1,000 Brexit-related client firms benefited from interventions including innovation and financial supports, while more than 400 Brexit-exposed companies are working with international Enterprise Ireland offices in key export markets.
Enterprise Ireland also announced a major drive to help Irish exporters diversify, including new offices planned for Denmark, Vietnam, Australia, Germany, the US and France. Offices in China, Scotland and New Zealand will benefit from increased staffing resources.
Looking at winning new contracts, 1,504 deals were settled in 2018 and 1,023 international buyers were brought to Ireland through the agency’s work.
Sinnamon concluded: “With Brexit fast approaching, consolidating exports to the UK while expanding the Irish export footprint in global markets is a key priority for Enterprise Ireland.
“We are continuing our diversification strategy to reduce our dependency on the UK (exports to the UK have dropped from 44pc in 2007 to 34pc in 2017), while we plan to strengthen our overseas presence.”
Updated, 1.02pm, 9 January 2019: This article was updated to correct a figure referring to funding issued by Enterprise Ireland to Brexit-affected clients. The total amount issued was €74m, not €747m, as previously stated.