Minister opens new extension at Ballybay Business Park

EMPHASIS ON SUPPORTS FOR SMALL BUSINESS AT UPBEAT EVENT

By MICHAEL McDONNELL

ballybay1smAN ultra-modern new 4,000 square-foot ‘Phase 2’ extension to Ballybay Enterprise Park was officially opened on Monday morning last by Minister of State for Small Business John Perry TD, who was clearly impressed by the development and told those attending the event that it represented a “role model” of what could be achieved in local communities that believed in supporting small business enterprises.

Minister Perry added that he had no doubt that the new facility would prove a “huge catalyst” for the growth of small businesses in the Ballybay area.

Both the minister and Monaghan County Manager Eugene Cummins repeatedly emphasised the services, supports and advice now available to small and medium-sized businesses through the recently established Local Enterprise Offices (or LEOs) now linked up with each county council.

 These were “first-stop-shops” for any one starting up in business, and budding entrepreneurs were strongly encouraged to approach their local LEO and fully utilise the help and guidance on offer.

 

Costing upwards of €500,000, the new extension (situated behind the existing premises at Ballybay Enterprise Park on the town’s Carrickmacross Road) consists of six 500 square-foot units and one larger room of twice that size, which has been fitted out as a state-of-the-art “Test Kitchen”. Complete with ample cooking, storage and refrigeration facilities, the special kitchen area is designed to attract businesses seeking to produce inventive new food products.

The industrial/office space available is considered ideal for start-ups and small to medium-sized enterprises, offering offices with their own external doors (but a common entrance foyer and corridor to access service rooms/toilets etc), standard line broadband speeds of up to 24mg, and electric storage heating. It also has ample parking space in a setting where the exterior will be maintained to the highest standard and where services provided will include landscaping, ground maintenance/cleaning, and monitored intruder/fire alarm.

The primary funding for the new Phase 2 extension came in the form of a Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) Interreg IVA grant of €470,000, which was approved following an application by the CASA (Castleblayney and South Armagh) Partnership’s Rural Investment Initiative.

The balance of about €40,000 that was required to complete the attractive new units was contributed by the Monaghan County (MCEF). The Enterprise Fund’s chairperson, Mr Pat O’Brien, had officially launched the project in Ballybay Wetlands Centre in February of last year.

Prior to addressing the local community, business and public representatives attending Monday’s event, Minister Perry was given a guided tour of the facility in which he also unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion and declare the new extension officially opened.

Among those present were local Fine Gael TDs Sean Conlan and Heather Humphreys, Monaghan County Manager Eugene Cummins, Ballybay Town Manager John Murray, Mayor of Monaghan Sean Conlon, Mayor of Ballybay Therese Hamilton, members of Monaghan Co Council and Ballybay Town Council, county council officials, representatives of Monaghan’s new Local Enterprise Office (formerly the Monaghan County Enterprise Board) including its CEO John McEntegart and Business Development Manager Ann Treanor, members of Monaghan County Enterprise Fund’s including its vice-chairperson Des Sheridan, and former county manager Declan Nelson.

The inescapable aura of the upcoming local elections was also in the air as a healthy complement of councillors from all three major political parties in these parts turned up — along with more than a few election hopefuls of every persuasion!

REALLY IMPRESSED

ballybay1smMinister Perry told those present that he was really impressed with the facilities. This Government was very much committed to business, he said, and it had a huge understanding, concern and respect for the role of small enterprise.
He had no doubt that this facility in Ballybay would be a “huge catalyst for the growth of small business” in the locality. The backbone of the Irish economy was very much the 200,000 small companies that employed 700,000 people and were driving the Irish economy and creating 98% of jobs in the country.

Congratulating Local Enterprise Office CEO John McEntegart — who was acting as MC for the event — and his colleague Ann Treanor, the minister said this centre would not have come into being without a huge level of commitment, vision and determination on their part. Accessing funding was one thing, but drawing it down and getting the job completed was another, the minister remarked.

The new Local Enterprise Office, which was now part of the Co Council, would indeed be part of the engine for growth and the catalyst for small companies in Co Monaghan and every county, Minister Perry said.

Nobody needed to be told how tough the last few years had been for business, particularly small businesses, and it was very encouraging to him, as minister, to see at first hand the work that is happening at local level. He had seen the excellent work that enterprise centres were doing across the country, and this facility in Ballybay was unequalled by anything he had yet seen. He had no doubt that anyone looking at the state-of-the-art ‘Test Kitchen’, for example, would agree that there was a “unique” facility here.

The availability of business space was a fundamental infrastructural requirement for businesses to seeking establish and grow in any location, and Enterprise Centres provided this incubation space for new entrepreneurs in a supportive environment as well as offering training and networking opportunities.

Starting out in business could be a lonely journey, and the Ballybay Enterprise Park was a “tangible and visible” contribution to regional development, according to Minister Perry.

Notably, the new extension included an innovative Test Food Kitchen, which was designed to meet a particular need identified in a study carried out by Monaghan County Enterprise Board among food producers in the county. It impressed him greatly, and he remarked that it was timely to help those working in the development of artisan, inventive food products.

Indeed, Monaghan was well known for the production of high-quality food products, and he was confident that there would be a resulting demand for the new units.

IMPORTANCE OF ENTERPRISE CENTRES

Commenting on the success of Enterprise Centres since the overall scheme was launched in 1989, Minister Perry said 117 had been completed to date, and had contributed greatly to community development and job creation, especially outside the large urban centres.

Among the figures he gave to underline the importance of Community Enterprise Centres (CECs) were the results of a survey that showed that 9,300 jobs have been created by companies in CECs over the past decade, that 392 companies had started operations in CECs since 2010, that 3,712 jobs (3,460 of which were in the private sector) were currently accommodated in the 76 CECs that responded, and that 317 firm with 1,600 employees had expanded and moved onwards and out of CECs in the past three years.

It had also been shown that 394 companies would not exist in their local areas if there were no CECs, that 55% of firms leaving CECs did so to expand, and that 40% of companies in CECs were exporting their products or services.

“In summary, the CECs have facilitated the creation of a considerable number of jobs over the last decade,” the minister said. “Most importantly, these jobs were dispersed all over Ireland, and particularly in regional locations.”

He had no doubt that the partnership between the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the CEC programme would continue to go from strength to strength in the future.

With regard to the respective roles of Enterprise Ireland, and of the new Local Enterprise Offices as part of the local authorities, he predicted that job creation would become a primary objective for the new councillors following the upcoming elections.

ballybay1smRemarking that there had never in the last 100 years been such a “fundamental change” in local government, Minister Perry said he was delighted that the central part of this change would be a focus business and jobs.

When businesses had reached the stage where they were “investor ready”, they could access Competitive Start Fund Funding (which is awarded through a competitive call for applications), or Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start Up, he pointed out, and he went on to mention other current Enterprise Ireland programmes through which the State was supporting and taking equity stakes in companies and their business plans.

On funding, he also assured those present that the Government was determined to ensure that banks would play their part and live up to their commitment in funding viable companies (further information on supports available from Enterprise Ireland can be obtained on the Agency’s website, www.enterprise-ireland.com).

LOCAL ENTERPRISE OFFICES

Commenting on the 31 new Local Enterprise Offices established in every county council since 15th of April, the minister noted that these were to be launched nationally by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Tuesday of this week.

The LEOs would be the “first-stop-shop” through which all information on State supports for small and micro-businesses could be accessed, and they represented a transformation of the enterprise support structure across every county. The offices would be the “local hub for enterprise support”, and would deliver a comprehensive service to local entrepreneurs and businesses, both new and established, including advice on grants, evaluating projects, and starting one’s own business to name but a few.

Services in the LEOs would include direct referral of clients to Enterprise Ireland, direct referral to the Microfinance Ireland and Loan Guarantee Schemes, and direct advice and guidance on local authority rates (he stressed that councils would have a degree of autonomy with regard to lowering rates where businesses had difficulties etc), procurement, and regulations affecting business.

Again, he emphasised that the Government was seeking to ensure that the banks would play their part in all of this.
The LEOs would therefore represent the “front door” through which all information in relation to State supports for small and micro businesses could be signposted, and anyone with a business idea could now approach their local LEO with a view to making an application for support.

JOBS A PRIORITY

Minister Perry said creating new jobs continued to be the top priority for Government, and it was recognised that too many people around the country had yet to see evidence of recovery. This was why the Government had designated 2014 to be the ‘Year for Jobs’ and was concentrating over the past two years on an Action Plan for Jobs that included more than 500 measures.

According to the Quarterly National Household Survey, more than 61,000 extra jobs had been added in 2013, and we have moved to a situation where the economy creating 1,200 jobs on average each week. The OECD’s review of the Action Plan for Jobs, published last week, had concluded that the plan was working, the minister stated. It was focusing on private sector-led, export-oriented job creation by getting the framework conditions right and continually upgrading the business environment.

In conclusion, Minister Perry said he was delighted to be in Ballybay to open this new centre. It represented a massive achievement, and he was really impressed and knew that the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny would very much look forward to visiting it.

It was a “role model” of what could be achieved in communities where it was difficult to get foreign investment. But he believed the success of the €19 billion Irish economy lay in facilities like this and in supporting small businesses.
He was also delighted that Monaghan Co Council would now have a clearly focussed LEO, where people would not be “fobbed off” but would be encouraged in terms of their ideas and business potential.

He also praised the role of the local TDs, the Enterprise Fund volunteers and the local councillors in making developments like this become a reality.

The minister said he was a delighted to officially open this “fantastic facility”, and he had no doubt that it would go from strength to strength.

L.E.O.s — AN ENHANCED SERVICE

Monaghan’s County Manager Eugene Cummins began by noting that the new Local Enterprise Office under Mr McEntegart was located in the M:TEK I building in Monaghan town. The office would incorporate the former County Enterprise Board and provide an enhanced service to small and medium businesses (SMEs).
Mr Cummings said he was happy to report recent meetings with both the Taoiseach Mr Kenny and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton in which was clear that both were very enthusiastic for these supports for small business.

He knew that all the elected councillors present were interested in economic development, and he assured them that there would now be a co-ordinated approach within the local authority to achieving this. The LEO was now part of the Co Council, and all the units within the authority would from now on be connected together and deliver advice, expertise and an immediate response to business people.

“So the Local Enterprise Office is there to drive and support new business start-ups in the county, to increase the number of innovative businesses, to promote entrepreneurship among the general public and in the schools, and to work with government agencies both north and south to secure additional funding,” Mr Cummins said. Today’s event was a good example of such funding, he added.

It was the Government’s belief that micro and small businesses had the potential to create thousands of jobs, and he agreed with this. Of the 61,000 jobs created last year, 40,000 were in SMEs, and most of those in businesses that had only been in existence for about five years.

The county manager said the LEO in Monaghan would be a first-stop shop, for all Government supports, to anyone wanting to start or expand their business and create jobs. The office was anxious to talk to anyone that had an opportunity or query in this regard, and they would be dealt with in a “new and enlightened way” he said, predicting that the initiative would be a great success.

The Government had also directed the establishment of a local community and development committee in each county, and was through this committee that each local authority would have a more direct role in economic development. An economic strategy for Monaghan would be developed on this basis. He had been meeting many business owners with this in mind, and would continue to do so in the coming months.

This new building in Ballybay would help create an environment for entrepreneurs, Mr Cummins, said, and he congratulated the directors of Monaghan County Enterprise Fund for their vision in creating workspaces not just in Ballybay but throughout the county.

He also gave thanks to the CASA Partnership for its vision and work in securing additional funds for both counties.
SELF-HELP

Apologising for County Enterprise Fund chairperson Pat O’Brien, who was out of the country, its vice-chairperson Des Sheridan said that his organisation shared a belief in the power of local enterprise, community and the strength of the self-help model.

Mr Sheridan said he believed the Enterprise Fund could be justifiably proud of its achievements over the past 20 years, which had included the opening of M:TEK buildings I and II, Clones Business Technology Park, and now this very impressive extension at Ballybay Enterprise Park.

On behalf of the Fund, he gave thanks to the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) and the Government, without whose assistance the project could not have been undertaken. He also thanked the councillors on the CASA Partnership for the hard work and cross-border collaboration that had in recent years delivered a number of enterprise and tourism projects in this region.

Mr Sheridan finished with a special word of thanks to Mr McEntegart and Ms Treanor of the LEO for their input into this project.

Mayor of Ballybay Therese Hamilton added her words of congratulations and thanks to the SEUPB for funding this initiative under Interreg IVA and to the County Enterprise Fund for covering the balance of the cost.

Stating that was she was confident the new development was offering exciting opportunities and would attract business start-ups to the town, Mayor Hamilton echoed the words of thanks to the CASA Partnership as well as commending the directors and staff of the Enterprise Fund for their commitment to Ballybay over the last 15 years.

The event concluded with refreshments for all in attendance, and Minister Perry subsequently continued his visit to Co Monaghan with a meeting with local furniture manufacturers at Drumbriston Furniture in Monaghan town followed by a visit to Castleblayney Enterprise Centre.