New lending flows to SMEs have increased in nearly every sector of the economy with both decline rates and application turnaround times decreasing. This was the positive message emanating from a Business Funding seminar held in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ennis Road, Limerick today (Wednesday, 19 October 2016).
The seminar, organised by the Chambers in Shannon, Limerick and Ennis, supported by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), and officially opened by Pat Breen, T.D., Minister for Employment and Small Business saw the support offerings of 11 public and private sector organisations as well as the SBCI’s seven lending partners being outlined in a single setting to an audience of over 100 enterprises from the Mid-West region.
The event was the first of a two-tier process to deliver an Enterprise Engagement Platform, listed as an action item in the Mid-West Action Plan for Jobs (APJ) 2015-2017. As stated in the APJ, the objective of such a platform is to ‘increase awareness and take up of national and regional enterprise supports – public and private’.
Opening the seminar, Minister Breen said: “Finance is the lifeblood of every business, and is needed at every stage of the business development lifecycle; from the start-up phase through to growth and expansion. Access to Finance and Finance for Growth has been an issue for Irish businesses for many years, including well before the economic down turn, and since 2011, the Government has placed a significant emphasis on addressing the financial needs of SMEs.
“We have witnessed a sea change in the financial environment in recent years with the establishment of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland as a national promotional financial institution. Their presence here today is most encouraging, particularly with their appointment this week as the new operator of the Credit Guarantee Schemes. These Schemes have resulted in some €60 million of additional loans being sanctioned for about 400 SMEs since 2012, creating or maintaining approximately 2,500 jobs throughout the country.
Breen added “There is a huge range of supports available – but we understand that just providing them is not enough; these supports are only meaningful if they are being taken up by businesses that will use them to grow, expand, or innovate, in ways that perhaps they couldn’t afford to do otherwise. That is why I am delighted to see that Shannon Chamber has taken the initiative to organise this event and lead this action from the Mid West APJ: a local organisation taking on a project that will be of huge benefit to businesses in the area.
Speaking at the event, the Chambers CEOs, Helen Downes (Shannon Chamber), James Ring (Limerick Chamber) and Rita McInerney (Ennis Chamber) said: “The genesis of the Funding seminar was a meeting with Shannon Chamber’s SME members who expressed an interest in knowing and better understanding the types and levels of financial support available to them at the various stages of development.
“Funding helps companies to set up, grow, enhance and strengthen their capability through product and process development. It helps sustain their long-term futures, be that their sustainability on the domestic market or international expansion through market extension.
“The level of buy-in and interest we received from the funding organisations demonstrates their interest in ensuring that their offerings are fully understood by business. Out next goal is to deliver the online Enterprise Engagement Platform; this will require significant funding and resources but it is a deliverable the Chambers are keen to provide, collectively.”
Nick Ashmore, SBCI CEO, in his presentation stated: “We’re here today to spread the word to businesses in the Mid-West of the availability of SBCI funding from a range of lenders providing flexible lower-cost financing options for SMEs.
“The SBCI was set up to address failures in the credit market for Irish SMEs and to drive competition and innovation. To date, our suite of SME loan products has helped bring down the cost of SME finance and assisted nearly 9,000 Irish businesses. In addition to the agriculture cash flow support loan fund initiative announced in the Budget, we are also the new operators of the Credit Guarantee Scheme and we look forward to continuing to seek ways to support the growth and prosperity of Irish enterprise.”