Ann May McHugh, Managing Director, National Ploughing Championships; Justin McCarthy, CEO and Editor in Chief, Irish Farmers Journal and Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland.
Shocking new figures show that Laois has less than one per cent of total jobs in Irish export companies that are supported by the Government agency Enterprise Ireland.
In a statement, Enterprise Ireland, which is responsible for developing Irish business globally, claims to have reported "strong job creation by its client companies in Laois".
It says there has been an 8% increase in the number of jobs created with 1,473 people now employed by the 168 companies supported by the agency in Laois.
However, a table provided by the agency reveals that Laois is second from bottom in terms for counties with the least number of jobs. Leitrim is rock bottom.
Laois has a rapidly growing population and workforce, many of whom commute out of the county each day for work. Despite this, just 0.7% of the 209,338 Enterprise Ireland support jobs in Ireland are located in Laois.
In 2017, a total of 109 were created at Enterprise Ireland client companies in Laois. This represents slightly more than 1% of the 10,309 net new jobs created in Ireland last year with the help of the Government agency.
The total number of new jobs created in 2017 was also the highest total employment achieved in the history of the agency.
Laois has less jobs than any of the midland counties of Longford, Westmeath and Offaly which has 4,281 jobs. Neighbouring counties of Kilkenny, Kildare, Carlow and Tipperary are also well ahead of Laois.
However, the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, said the 2017 results are consistent with the strong employment performance across the economy.
"I am very pleased to see this strong level of job creation delivered for Laois by Enterprise Ireland backed companies," she said.
“The priority of my Department, through Enterprise Ireland is to support companies in Laois and right across the country to continue to build on this strong job creation performance," she said.
The figures from Enterprise Ireland are in line with the performance of the Industrial Development Authority in Laois.
The Leinster Express reported recently that in the four years to 2016, the IDA invested €326 million in overseas companies that bring jobs to Ireland. A little more than 0.03% of this cash ended up in Laois.
Enterprise Ireland confirmed to the Leinster Express that its Chief Executive Julie Sinnamon has accepted an invitation by local officials in Laois to visit the county and discuss the economic development of Laois. A date for this meeting will be scheduled in Q1 2017.
See below Enterprise Ireland county by county table for job creation in 2017
Enterprise Ireland said the job creation figures are up on 2016, showing strong consistent year on year growth, despite the uncertainty that Irish businesses faced in 2017 in the context of Brexit.
A statement to the Leinster Express the agency said supporting regional enterprise development and working with businesses to achieve their global ambition is a 'key focus'.
"In recent months, Enterprise Ireland has launched new measures to strengthen the rural and regional economy, and to provide quicker access to innovation funding for exporting companies.
"To stimulate regional growth as we move towards 2020, we announced a €60 million competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund over two calls.
"In December 2017, twenty-one successful applicants representing all regions of the country have secured up to €30.5m for their projects in the first competitive call," said the statment.
It also claimed that Job creation was "evenly spread across the country, with every county seeing job increases". Two thirds (64%) of the new jobs created were outside of Dublin. The West, Mid-West and North West saw the largest level of increases at 7% in 2017.
Enterprise Ireland attributed this strong performance by Irish businesses to the continuing growth of an entrepreneurial climate for start-ups, allied to strong jobs growth in the Construction (8% increase), Engineering (8% increase), Lifesciences (8% increase), Digital Technology (6% increase), Electronics (6% increase), Food (4% increase) and ICT sectors (5% increase).
Enterprise Ireland's Chief Executive said 2017 had been a good year for the agency.
“Today’s figures represent another year of strong performance by our client companies who now employ over 209,000 people and are a barometer of the robust health of Irish businesses. Despite the challenge and uncertainty created by Brexit, Irish companies have continued to grow their global exports, supporting strong job creation across all of the regions of Ireland.
“At Enterprise Ireland, our Strategy – Build Scale, Expand Reach 2017 - 2020 is focused on transforming the innovation and competitive capabilities of Irish enterprise, to expand the global reach of ambitious Irish companies into diversified export markets and we are pleased with the results of the first year of our new strategy. It is imperative, however, that Irish businesses continue to build on the strength of their 2017 performance and implement robust plans to prepare for the impact of Brexit,”
Minister Humphreys TD said that in recent months, Enterprise Ireland, through funding from her Department, has launched new measures to strengthen the rural and regional economy, and to provide quicker access to innovation funding for exporting companies.
“Overall, my Department’s eight Regional Action Plans for Jobs, which will be a key focus of my work in the coming period, are now embedded across the country. They are excellent examples of government agencies like Enterprise Ireland, local authorities, the Local Enterprise Offices and businesses working together to tackle regional issues. These results mark another step in the right direction for our regional plans,” she said.
Today, Enterprise Ireland also announced the launch of a new Market Discovery Fund to support Enterprise Ireland backed companies to diversify into new markets and promote new products to existing markets. There are three levels of funding available to companies; up to €35,000, up to €75,000 and up to €150,000.