November 16: Rejuventaing spirit of our entrepreneurs

The statistics on youth unemployment cited by University of Limerick economics lecturer Dr Stephen Kinsella, in a thought-provoking contribution on page 9 this week, make for stark reading.

The statistics on youth unemployment cited by University of Limerick economics lecturer Dr Stephen Kinsella, in a thought-provoking contribution on page 9 this week, make for stark reading.

He highlights a study conducted locally last year which found that four fifths of Limerick college graduates left the Mid-West region upon finishing their degrees – an estimated 3,416 of the brightest and best.

We are – with some justification – proud of the excellence provided by our third-level institutions in Limerick, but such a massive exodus of the graduates they are producing is an appalling indictment of the lack of local employment opportunities. It would be interesting to compare that depressing statistic with the equivalent for Cork and Dublin, say. The smart money would surely be stacked on those cities offering a vastly better odds to the graduates they are producing.

Dr Kinsella’s observations conclude with a call to action: he suggests, as a matter of urgency, a pilot study to better understand youth unemployment in the Limerick area, so that targeted solutions can be found at both State and private-sector levels.

It’s not just a good idea; it’s something that should be acted on and delivered on, with or without the support of the powers that be in Dublin.

Our special focus this week on the entrepreneurial spirit that is flourishing in the Mid-West - fostered by innovative incubators at UL, LIT and elsewhere in the county - offers compelling evidence that we have the talent on the ground here to tackle this blight ourselves.

LIT’s Dr Fergal Barry, another eminent economic commentator, points out that when the bottom fell out of the country’s economy seven years ago, not everyone in Limerick stood idly by and waited for the Government agencies to come up with a rescue plan. No, we have put in place some outstanding facilities to encourage the budding entrepreneurs being produced by our colleges. Thank goodness for that, because for years the IDA’s record of producing jobs for Limerick was absymal. Thankfully, matters have improved of late, and large-scale announcements like the hoped-for Regereron plant in Raheen are of course critically important, but in large part we can and should be the authors of our own economic revival, through a multitude of smaller success stories.

An innovation unit run by the merged Limerick City and County Councils is a welcome addition to local mix.

Limerick has proven time and again that we can produce outstanding entrepreneurs. Last week, a young Newcastle West-based company, Design Pro, beat off huge competition to become the overall winner in the National Enterprise Awards.

On Friday night, at the city’s Strand Hotel, progressive business leaders will gather for the Limerick Chamber event which will honour a string of local business with well deserved awards.

Some of those nominated for awards are small, but expanding fast. Some may never achieve significant scale, but they are playing their part in the region’s recovery. So are the tiny companies still finding their way in local business incubators.

They may not be producing jobs on a major scale, but scores of small companies run by passionate, driven and mostly young people in this region are the key to economic salvation.