Enterprise Ireland is anticipating continued growth amongst its client companies this year despite growing concerns around economic headwinds such as rampant inflation and skills shortages.
Leo Clancy, the chief executive officer of Enterprise Ireland, spoke with the Sunday Independent following the release of its annual export results for 2021. The state agency for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets reported that exports by companies it supports increased by 12pc to a record €27.29bn last year.
Clancy said the positive result last year was down to a resurgence of “post-pandemic confidence”.
Despite economic headwinds – including inflation, supply chain bottlenecks and skills shortages – growing stronger this year, Clancy is still anticipating growth. He cited a client survey Enterprise Ireland carried out earlier this year, which showed “buoyancy” and “optimism for growth at a reasonable level”.
“I think that is still true,” he said. “People have been dealing with the headwinds operationally in the businesses. Supply chain issues never went away, material inflation was happening anyway, and energy costs were going up – the war exacerbated all three of those. There is still very strong demand out there.”
Clancy said 2021 had set up the Irish economy well for the year ahead.
“There is loads of stuff to be positive about,” he said. “We are diversified across so many sectors now. Every sector and geography grew – that’s a really good base to be going into anything.”
Clancy also said many of the issues facing the Irish economy were externalities.
“These are not things that we are doing,” he said. “Skills are short everywhere; inflation and energy are affecting everyone. So I think the factors that are causing us trouble are factors everywhere, and they’re outside of our control. The factors that are within our control we are doing really well on.”
Clancy said there was a mixture of short- and long-term challenges that businesses were focusing on for the year ahead.
The Enterprise Ireland boss said inflation, energy costs, and supply chain issues for manufacturing businesses were the primary concerns. Clancy added the main concerns for services and high technology companies were skills shortages and volatility in financial markets.