IRISH companies are proving to be resilient in the face of the recession with Enterprise Ireland this morning announcing record levels of exports for the year, despite the challenges 2011 brought.
Irish firms are celebrating record exports, which have returned to pre-recession levels.
Enterprise Ireland said employment has also stabilised in Irish exporting companies, which are using a renewed confidence to aggressively target opportunities in international markets.
The group's end-of-year statement for 2011 revealed new export sales are expected to reach in excess of 1 billion euro within weeks.
Frank Ryan, Enterprise Ireland chief executive, said companies that faced severe global economic conditions had emerged leaner, stronger and with a greater appetite for international growth than ever before.
"They have proved to be resilient and relentless in their pursuit of new market opportunities and they are to be commended on their success," he said.
"Enterprise Ireland is determined to continue to support their job creation initiatives and identify and help secure overseas business in established and high-growth markets."
Figures show employment in Enterprise Ireland client companies stood at 162,692 this year, including 141,228 full-time posts and 21,464 part-time.
Enterprise Ireland said new initiatives during the year included start funds for very early stage entrepreneurs, a 10 million euro international fund for attracting entrepreneurs from overseas, and the opening the group's first office in South Africa.
It revealed 2011 also saw a record number of Irish companies being acquired by overseas multinationals, including Research in Motion (Blackberry) and IBM.
However, Mr Ryan warned 2012 will be a year of continuing challenges.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said creating an indigenous engine of economic growth is central to his plan for revitalising the economy.
"Enterprise Ireland, and the various supports it provides to domestic businesses, particularly in the exporting sector, will be key to this," he said.
"In these very difficult times, to have kept employment steady in the companies it supports, with increases in certain categories, is a creditable performance.
"Although 2012 will be another difficult year, this government is determined to continually improve our supports to domestic job-creating businesses through improvements in access to finance and reductions in costs. With the right supports I hope that these businesses can build on this year's performance and get more people back to work."
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton praised the achievement: “In these very difficult times, to have kept employment steady in the companies it supports, with increases in certain categories, is a creditable performance. With the right supports I hope that these businesses can build on this year’s performance and get more people back to work”.