Plan working but for a few pitfalls
JULIE Sinnamon, the new head of Enterprise Ireland (EI), put in a commanding performance yesterday. And how could she fail to. The semi-state agency tasked with fostering an export culture among Irish businesses has a good story to tell. At 5,442 net new jobs, EI secured the highest net gain in employment last year in more than a decade. We like to criticise our semi-state agencies and often with good reason. But recent weeks have shown that both EI and sister body the IDA have proved their worth. More than 161,000 people are now employed in multi-national companies attracted to Ireland by the IDA -- the highest level in the history of the agency. It promotes 'Brand Ireland' to win foreign investment while Enterprise Ireland, through its network of more than 30 offices globally, helps Irish companies woo foreign markets. And the results speak for themselves. Full-time employment levels at EI-backed companies are the highest since 2007 and total employment is the highest recorded in the past decade. New offices are opening in key locations. And about 80pc of its €330m budget goes directly to companies. That's not to say that the agencies are critic-free. It was claimed at yesterday's press launch that one company had complained about the quality of EI's staff overseas -- not every company is pleased with the offering. And let's not forget that while jobs were created last year, 12,591 were lost. Challenges clearly remain, especially from a budgetary point of view within the agency. An internal audit made public in October warned there was a serious need to address the "substantial staff losses" arising from the impact of the ban on recruitment and promotions. Improvements are always needed, but the overall plan appears to be working.