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Tipperary businesses get best Brexit broadside at LEO event

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Tipperary businesses get best Brexit broadside at LEO event thumbnailPictured at the LEO Brexit Seminar in Horse & Jockey organised by the Local Enterprise Office Tipperary

TIPPERARY businesses have been left in no doubt as to the challenge that Brexit represents for companies in the regions following a Tipperary Local Enterprise Office event with experts.
Businesses from around the county gathered at the special Brexit Seminar at the Horse & Jockey aimed at helping Tipp companies prepare for what the event heard was the biggest challenge ever to Irish business.
Among those giving delegates an understanding of just how stark those challenges will be was Catherine Hogan, who has responsibility for Enterprise Ireland's activities in Tipperary. The EI rep laid bare the challenge for businesses as she made it clear just how much it is going to impact on the regions, in particular. 
“It is very important to acknowledge there will be challenges for all sectors. There has been a lot of media talk about traditional sectors - agri-food, construction, engineering, tourism.  But it will have an impact across all sectors.
“There will be a strong regional impact, however. We have identified 660 Enterprise Ireland companies who will have significant exposure to Brexit, companies who have 20% of their turnover in the UK market. Those companies employ 36,000 people in total and 30,000 of them are around the regions. So it's a serious issue for the regions in Ireland."
Ms Hogan, however, said there would still be opportunities but planning for both the challenges and opportunities is absolutely essential. "Brexit is at the top of EI's agenda. We see it as the most significant challenge to the Irish economy in the last 50 years, in fact in the establishment of Irish state," she said.
“We are advocating that companies plan to leverage opportunities as they arrive. Last year our key word was all around awareness building. We are looking now for action. We want companies to start to plan and take action to mitigate the risk, as well as leverage opportunity.
“For this year, and going forward, our objective is to help build strength in companies and improve their capabilities to deal with whatever Brexit may bring so they are in a better position going forward. With the level of sales going into the UK, which is large, it will be a challenge for our client companies.
“We have a special Brexit unit and its role is all around the export piece, making sure our client companies continue to grow and find markets in the UK and elsewhere. We have a two pronged approach; the first which is to build scale and the second to expand the reach of those companies in world markets."
Ms Hogan steered businesses to EI's online tool, www.prepareforBrexit.ie , which, she said, gives businesses a sense of the challenges to their business, has a "Brexit Scorecard" and a "Be Prepared Grant" section. There are also, she said, Brexit advisory clinics where businesses can book meetings with experts, with the next such event for this region taking place in the Charleville Park Hotel on Wednesday, April 11.
Head of Tipperary Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Rita Guinan said that a number of supports are also available from LEO. "Today's event is one of a number of measures we have in place to support Tipperary businesses as we move inexorably, it seems, towards Brexit. Our supports are for companies with 10 staff or less and once you hit that magic number, you are into export or a high potential start up and graduate onto Enterprise Ireland's ladder for support," she said.
Leas Cathaoirleach of Tipperary County Council Roger Kennedy also expressed concern over the disproportionate Brexit impact on counties like Tipperary. "We know that 37% of all Irish Exports worth some €7.52Billion go to the UK and Export growth to the UK slowed from 12% growth in 2015 by 10% to just 2% in 2016, primarily due to a decline in food exports. This is particularly relevant to a county like Tipperary where we have 7,000 full time farmers," he said.
Also speaking at the event, John Finn, Managing Director, Treasury Solutions, a Cork-based Treasury Risk and Corporate Finance Management practice, said that businesses who prepare for the Brexit challenge will simply have a competitive edge over those who don't.
”We will have early adapters and we will have laggards. It's a question of where businesses want to be. Do they want to be leading or at the back end? If it's at the back end then they better not be exporting. I know from the interaction with some people who are dealing in the UK that they are not preparing for Brexit. Thankfully, there are huge amounts of supports available. Export businesses really need to have their own Brexit plan.
“My advice to businesses here is to start with the Local Enterprise Office because if they don't have the particular support you need, they will direct you to who does."
Separate to Brexit, Mr Finn said that there is an unhealthy fear of borrowing today and it is holding businesses back. "Two things that did the most damage were the selling on of loans and the tracker issue created so much disquiet. The selling on of loans really scared people. As a result they are using their internal resources to grow and growing at a slower pace. The worry is that there is a certain pace that you need to grow to keep yourself competitive. If you keep growing through self-funding then that might be too slow."
On currency, he said that there could be further swings on currency that could be the difference between success and failure. "There is huge assistance out there. The companies who engage tend to be more progressive."

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