Minister of State Damien English in the Laois LEO office with business reps and Cathaoirleach Cllr Conor Bergin. Photos: Alf Harvey
Laois is becoming more attractive to business thanks to local supports, the Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, has said on a visit to the county this week.
Minister Damien English, TD met Laois business support groups and local companies on a tour last Thursday afternoon, as part of nationwide face-to-face meetings since Covid restrictions eased.
He got a warm reception at the slick recently opened Laois Local Enterprise Office (Laois LEO) now off the foyer of county hall, reflecting a new policy to be on call in Laois County Council offices, ready to welcome and support local business people.
He praised Laois LEO and Laois County Council for making use of all Government supports possible to keep Laois businesses not just afloat, but expanding despite the pressures of Brexit, the pandemic and now the war on Ukraine.
"There was a concern in some businesses when local authorities stepped in to be involved with LEOs, but it has been an immense success. When I met you previously you said at the time about the amount of people commuting out of Laois. All your work indicates that you are making Laois a more attractive place. There are a lot of opportunities for county Laois. You're availing of the national supports. You have talent and skills in Laois, it's all about making this county a more attractive place.
Laois County Council CEO John Mulholland praised the will to grow in Laois businesses.
"How remarkable it is, after six years of turmoil. Imagine, Brexit, Covid shutdown, Ukraine and a lot of businesses are still in expansionist mode. You have to pinch yourself. One of the things that assures me is networking. Maybe years ago the same trust wasn't there in working groups. That people like Glanbia, is exporting cheese to Europe from Laois, with the cheddar market having gone, it's incredible. It's a terrific story so far. I am glad to see businesses expand. You would have thought after Brexit they would be cut off but most are expanding," he said.
Having heard that Laois has six remote working hubs, with a national event showcasing them in BloomHQ next week, Minister English said that "hubs are where the real potential is" for regional areas, with people now wanting to keep a working life near home.
The Minister was greeted at County Hall by John Mulholland CEO, Councillor Conor Bergin, Cathaoirleach, the LEO team, Alison Browne President of Laois Chamber, Caroline Hofman CEO of Laois Chamber and Sarah Morgan Midland Regional Enterprise Office, members of the Evaluation Committee and Cllr Thomasina Connell.
They thanked him for the new supports in recent years to get through Covid, and promote remote working.
"We have fabulous support from the council and in particularly LEO and the Business Support Unit have been fantastic. With the Town Team and Downtown Portlaoise it is a lifeline for retail and business and we look forward to more incentives," Ms Browne said.
The Minister made a presentation to Laois company Salutem Insights, this years Laois County Enterprise award winner. They work with pharmaceuticals to bring products to market, formed in 2017 with a new employee every year since, and six now employed.
Sandra Redmond MD told the Leinster Express that it meant a lot to be awarded.
"It is a recognition of the work that LEO put in to Salutem to allow us to expand and grow in confidence," she said.
At Portlaoise Enterprise Centre he visited LEO client company TSI Flowmeters Ltd. With over twenty years’ experience, TSI are the market leaders in providing innovative water management solutions to a wide range of customers including water utilities and fire services.
Minister English finished his Laois visit at another LEO client, Ballykilcavan Brewing Company. David Walsh-Kemmis set up the company in 2016 and started brewing beer in 2018. The beers are distributed all over Ireland and the company are now developing a visitor centre at the brewery.
A number of food producers from the Laois Taste Group also visited Ballykilcavan including The Merry Mill, Temptation Patisserie and Mueller and O’Connell Bakery.
He praised the Laois Taste Group for their initiative.
“Local communities are recognising the strengths and business opportunities that exist in their own area and seeking to make the most of them. It is evident here in Laois too with ventures such as the Laois Taste Group. Our new Regional Enterprise Plans were specifically developed to enable collaboration and to utilise local insight and resources so as to realise enterprise growth and job creation.”
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