THE new Local Enterprise Office Limerick will “breathe new life into many sectors of our regional economy”, according to Fine Gael’s Cllr Maria Byrne.
The office, which will open on Patrick Street next month, takes on the functions of the former city and county enterprise boards and will do more besides.
And while some have expressed concerns that the enterprise boards, which were independent, are being absorbed into local authorities, Cllr Byrne is confident the move is the correct one.
Speaking after Minister for Finance Michael Noonan launched the Limerick LEO at City Hall this week, Cllr Byrne said the entity would “build on the significant achievements of the county and city enterprise boards and will provide a first-stop-shop for all government supports for small business”.
“The Limerick LEO on Patrick Street is a fantastic resource for sole traders, micro-businesses and small and medium-sized companies seeking information and support on starting or growing a business. Previously, some businesses were considered too large to access supports from city and county enterprise boards but as they were not exporting, they did not qualify for Enterprise Ireland supports either. All categories of business will now benefit from services provided by the LEOs,” the former Mayor of Limerick added.
Those supports included feasibility study grants, employment and capital grants as well as staff training, mentoring and advice on planning, taxation and other matters.
The Patrick Street office was part of a new national network that would “also provide an additional €3.5 million in funding with a particular focus on supporting young entrepreneurs under 30 years of age,” said Cllr Byrne.
“The LEOs will breathe new life into many sectors of our regional economies. Limerick business owners will now be able to walk into the Limerick LEO and get the supports they require. This marks a real reform of local government and devolution of power from central government.
“The Government’s Action Plan for Jobs is focused on bringing more opportunities to regional areas and the LEOs are an important step in facilitating this development and in providing a more integrated support service for the entrepreneurial, self-starting and motivated people who want to create jobs and contribute to the Limerick economy.”
Cllr Byrne, who is seeking to retain her seat in Limerick City West, said that Fine Gael councillors who were elected would continue to support small business in Limerick by freezing - and if possible reducing - commercial rates.