The Industrial Development Act 1995 recognised the County Enterprise Boards which had been established in 1993. It made provision for grants to enable CEBs for the purpose of meeting their administration and other expenses. A CEB was empowered, for the purpose of assisting economic development within its area by means of enterprise creation or business development;
- to make a loan on such terms as it saws fit;
- to make a grant on such conditions as it may determine;
- to make an equity investment;
- to support on any matter as may be deemed, local development likely to contribute to enterprise creation and business development and other economic benefits;
- to foster awareness of the need for enterprise creation and development;
- to acquire lands; and
- to employ personnel including a chief executive officer and dosuch other things as may be appropriate.
The Local Enterprise Office of the local authorities absorbed much of the role of the former City and County Enterprise Boards in 2014. The coordinated enterprise development service on a local basis, generally dealing with businesses with less than 10 employees.
The County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Act, 2013 provides for the dissolution of County Enterprise Boards and the transfer of their assets and functions to Enterprise Ireland. The transferred functions are to be performed by each local authority in its functional area, on behalf of Enterprise Ireland.
Assets and land vested in the County Enterprise Board are transferred to Enterprise Ireland. All claims, rights, liabilities of the Boards are transferred. The staff of a CEB may be designated to Enterprise Ireland or the Local Authority.
The 2012 Action Plan for Jobs, sought to deliver an enhanced, expanded and more integrated support service for micro and small businesses. Local Enterprise Offices have been established in each County Council area in succession. Local Enterprise Boards are established.
Local Enterprise Offices offer a range of services including general business and advice information, information on access to other enterprise related government agencies, advice and information on accessing public procurement processes, advice on energy efficiency, sustainable development and alternative renewable energy sources.
LEOs may provide entrepreneurship support services including education, the development of clusters, enterprise awards and enterprise promotional activity. Enterprise support services include financial supports for start-ups, business development training supports, mentoring, marketing assistance, access to business networks, Community Enterprise Centres, and te Microfinance Ireland Loan Fund.
The LEOs publish the SME’s Guide to Government support. It includes details of support from a range of agencies including government departments, Enterprise Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Irish Film Board, Local Enterprises Offices, Microfinance Ireland, Skillnets, Teagasc, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Westbic, Western Development Commission, Credit Review Office, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Bord Bia and the Arts Council. The SME’s online tool is a means of identifying areas and agencies through a number of online questions which may be appropriate to the particular enterprise concerned.
Local Enterprise Offices provide a range of financial supports which are designed to assist in the establishment or growth of businesses employing up to ten persons. They are designed to be flexible. LEOs may assist in the establishment, development of new and existing enterprise by individuals, corporates, sole traders and community groups. They must be located within the LEO’s geographic area.
The enterprise must be commercial in nature. It must demonstrate a market for the product or service. It must have capacity for growth and job creation and must not employee more than 10 persons. Expenditure incurred prior to receipt of the application is not eligible.
Feasibility grants are designed to assist promoters in researching market demand for products or services and examining sustainability. They may include assistance with innovation, including consultancy requirements, hiring of expertise from third level colleges, private specialists, design and patent costs and proto type development.
The maximum feasibility or innovation grants is 50% of the investment or €20,000 whichever is less. The maximum amounts for the BMW region is 60% or €20,000, whichever is less. Expenditure may be considered in relation to consultancy on labour research and innovation costs as well as miscellaneous other costs.
A Priming Grant is a business start-up grant which is available to microenterprises within their first 18 months. It may be available to community groups, corporates, sole traders and partnerships It must employee up to 10 persons. It may be a manufacturer or internationally traded service business, a domestic traded service business with a potential to trade internationally or a domestic traded service being established by a female returning to the workforce or by and unemployed person provided that the potential for deadweight or displacement cost does not exist.
Eligible clients may be awarded a Priming Grant within the first 18 months of setting up of business. The maximum grant is 50% of investment or €150,000, whichever is less. Grants of €80,000 to €150,000 are exceptional and will only apply in cases of projects that clearly demonstrate a potential to graduate to Enterprise Ireland client profile and/or export internationally. In other cases, the maximum is 50% of investment or €80,000 whichever is less. A percentage is to be refundable at the discretion of the LEO. Subject to a 50% limit, a maximum grant of €15,000 per job created applies in respect of any employment support granted.
Business Expansion Grants are designed to assist businesses in their growth phase after the initial 18 months start-up period. They may be awarded to sole traders, partnerships or community groups or limited companies that satisfy the following criteria.
- located within the LEO geographic area;
- a business which may on growth have the capacity, may or may not on growth have the capacity to fit the Enterprise Ireland profile;
- business employing up to 10 person;
- a manufacturing or internationally traded business service;
- a domestically traded business service with potential to trade internationally.
The maximum Business Expansion Grant is 50% of the investment or €150,000. Grants over €80,000 and up to €150,000 are exceptional, and are only available for projects which clearly demonstrate a potential to graduate to Enterprise Ireland and/or export internationally. In other cases, the maximum grant is 50% of the investment or €80,000 whichever is ,less. This is subject to a 50% limit. A maximum grant of €15,000 per full time job created applies. A business that has availed of Priming Grant is ineligible to apply for a Business Expansion Grant until 18 months after drawdown or approval of the Priming Grant, whichever is later.
Under a partnership between Microfinance Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices, business loans are available through the LEOs. These include unsecured loans from €2,000 to €25,000, with terms from 3 to 5 years, reduced interest rates and flexibility on payment terms. The loans are provided and underwritten by Microfinance Ireland. An application is made to the LEO. It is assessed locally in the first instance. Microfinance Ireland makes the final decision.
Businesses with fewer than 10 employees and turnover of less than €2 million may apply. All business sectors are eligible. Loans may be used to fund start up and existing micro-enterprises. Monies can be used for working capital or hiring of new employees, stock, machinery, purchases etc.
The LEO is intended as a local first stop shop for new entrepreneurs, existing micro-enterprises and small business owners. They are intended to be the front door, through which all information on State support for small and micro businesses may be accessed or signposted and through which supports from other programs may be provided.
Local Enterprise Offices provide a range of training supports, tailored to meet specific business requirements. They include a start their own business program. It focuses on those with a business idea, most likely unemployed, made redundant or a woman returning to the workforce who are unsure as to how to develop it.
The typical content and breakdown of a program includes a workshop assessing the business idea, personnel requirements, business structures and basic foundations such as tax registration, insurance regulation etc. It looks at what market research might be appropriate, including research in potential markets and on competition. A further workshops may focus on business strategy, introduction to marketing, strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats analysis, analysis of external forces and competitive strategies.
A further workshop look at marketing in terms of product, price, placement, promotion, online marketing and networks. A further workshop looks at tax and bookkeeping obligations. A further workshop looks at financial management including cash flow management, sources of finance, budgeting, pricing and cost analysis. A further workshop looks at bringing the various elements of previous workshops together. The final workshop may deal with business related insurance, sales techniques and debt management.
The accelerated management development program is designed to provide an owner – manager with management and leadership business skills and knowledge, sufficient to achieve sustainability and growth in their business.
The mentoring program seeks to match up knowledge, skills, insights and entrepreneurial capability of experienced practitioners with small business owners and managers, who require practical and strategic one to one advice and guidance. Applicants for mentor assistance are considered individually. There must be a business needs analysis to assess the key needs of the business and to determine the mentoring objective.
The mentoring program is open to new and existing businesses within the LEO area. The mentor seeks to listen, provide advice and direction, discuss solutions, help decision-making processes, share experience and knowledge etc. The mentor may be involved in a range of areas, including business strategy, marketing, production planning, distribution, corporate organisation, web design and financial planning.
The Digital Voucher Scheme is available to qualifying businesses for fixed period. The Scheme seeks to help small businesses grow their sales, exports, and jobs. Businesses may apply for grants up to €2,500 via the Trading Online Voucher Scheme.
Online Vouchers can be used for the development or upgrade of an e-commerce website, such as implementing online payments or booking systems. Other uses include the purchase of Internet related software, online advertising, development of an app, implementation of digital marketing strategy and consultation with ICT experts. They cannot be used for the development of brochure websites, the purchase of non-Internet related software or anything other than online trading related activity.
Pobal co-ordinates funding to local area partnerships. Local area partnerships were established under programs for economic and social progress. They operate on the basis of national programs. Each area partnership is independent and implements its own area action plan.
Leader is an EU based program based on the various EU approved programs for rural development. Its purpose was to assist development in rural areas.