An Taoiseach Enda Kenny was the keynote speaker at a showcase of western enterprise hosted by the Western Development Commission (WDC ) in Dublin last week.
The showcase highlighted companies supported through the WDC’s Western Investment Fund (WIF ), a €32 million Evergreen Fund providing seed, venture capital and loan finance on a commercial basis to SMEs and social enterprises within the WDC area of Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon.
The WIF has a very diverse portfolio across a range of sectors including medtech and lifesciences, cleantech, ICT, manufacturing, and internationally traded services, creative industries, food, tourism, and social and economic infrastructure.
Speaking at the showcase, the Taoiseach commented on the economic impact of the WIF where from an exchequer allocation of €32 million between 2001 and 2010, the WIF has to date invested €40 million in 100 enterprises in the western region. In 2011 alone the Taoiseach noted, the wage bill within the WIF’s portfolio was €43 million with €11.8 million of that returning to the exchequer through payroll related deductions.
The showcase was attended by western members of the Oireachtas, senior civil servants from the Departments of an Taoiseach, Environment, Community and Local Government, Finance and Enterprise, as well as public servants from Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. In addition, representatives from IBEC, international and domestic VCs, corporate financiers, banks, and other funders including business angels were in attendance.
Speaking at the showcase, Ian Brannigan, acting chief executive of the WDC, commented: “Innovative public sector initiatives like the Western Investment Fund can and do work. The WIF is a unique public sector investment model in Europe, operating with a small but dynamic team who work to maximise the returns to the State both from a return on financial investment and economic impact. The WIF invests commercially and helps lever very significant additional funding for the region’s enterprises totaling €147m. For every €1 invested by the WIF another €4 is leveraged for western enterprises. It has become self-sufficient with proceeds from the original investments now being reinvested into a new generation of western enterprises helping support new job creation.”
Among the many enterprises presenting at the showcase were companies that the WIF supported at the very early stage of their development, some which have grown to a stage where they became acquisition targets for major multinational companies, giving the WDC its exit as an investor but also very importantly leading to these companies growing at an accelerated pace. In many cases these acquisitions resulted in multi-nationals establishing a presence in Ireland and in some cases choosing a western location for their European headquarters.