Nearly 3,500 net new jobs were created by companies supported by Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) around the country last year despite the economic challenges.
In total 7,870 new roles were added over the 12 months before jobs lost were taken into account, a 10% increase on the previous year.
The gains marked the ninth consecutive year of jobs growth for the LEO network and its third highest year of job creation since it was established in 2014.
Over the course of the year, 7,221 companies with 37,863 jobs were financially supported by LEOs.
Of the total, 84% of the new jobs that were created were situated outside the Dublin region with growth recorded in all 31 LEO areas.
“We’re seeing it right throughout the regions with a fairly good spread of growth,” said Padraic McElwee, Chair of the network of Local Enterprise Offices, speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“The two positive trends we’ve seen coming through, is a lot of engineering companies in particular sub-supplying into the multinational sector, we’re seeing good growth there, particularly as multinationals on-shore some of their activity.
“We’re also seeing companies that are focused on environmental issues in a broad context, we’re seeing growth in those sectors.”
LEOs are located in local authorities and are funded through Enterprise Ireland.
They work to support small Irish businesses and entrepreneurs by providing a range of supports including financial, mentoring, training and sector specific expertise.
They also assist thousands of additional companies through initiatives such as Digital Start, Green for Micro, the Trading Online Voucher and Lean for Micro.
They also run initiatives like Local Enterprise Week, National Women’s Enterprise Day, the Student Enterprise Programme and the National Enterprise Awards.
“A big success for us is if we migrate a company out of our portfolio into Enterprise Ireland, because it means that company is going into growth stage,” said Mr McElwee, “Last year we had 138 businesses that the LEOs transferred into Enterprise Ireland – that would be a steady trend, that would be steady growth.
“Ultimately we’re trying to develop our future exporters – that’s really our remit – so that’s a positive story.”
Just over 4,400 jobs were lost by LEO client companies during the year, as some businesses failed and others scaled back.
Mr McElwee said that job losses were a normal part of the process when supporting new firms, however the figures were moving in the right direction.
“We’re not seeing any sectoral changes – the only sector where we didn’t see huge growth was in the food sector, and that might be related to that whole sector being challenged coming out of Covid,” he said. “What is important is the job losses, which we have every year, were actually substantially down on the previous, so that’s why in the net jobs we’re starting to see that growth.
“Given the challenges they face, it’s been a really positive year.”
The LEO results were welcomed by Enterprise Ireland and by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment,, Simon Coveney.
“These results show the significant role the Local Enterprise Offices are playing in not only creating new businesses and jobs but also in sustaining them,” he said.
“On the back of some of the most difficult years for small businesses we are still seeing growth across the country.”