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Minister Cannon T.D. remarks at the Back for Business Final Session in Iveagh House

A very warm welcome to you all to Iveagh House. I am very pleased that we are able to host this final session of Back for Business at the Headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I sincerely congratulate everyone involved in the Back to Business initiative, particularly Paula Fitzsimons, the Director of Back for Business who has shown such passion and energy from the very beginning. It is a great pity that Paula is not able to be with us today and I think we all agree that this programme could never have achieved so much without Paula’s thoughtfulness, hard work and limitless enthusiasm. However, I am very pleased that Orla and Eileen could join us today. Orla and Eileen have done so much over the last 6 months to ensure that everything on the course – including today – runs smoothly, and I would like to sincerely thank them for their hard work and dedication.

I would especially like to thank Áine, James, John, Julie, Mary and Tom who are the lead entrepreneurs and mentors. I understand from the participants that your insights and advice have proved invaluable. The participants found it very encouraging to work with people who have already gone through the experience of setting up and growing a business. It is a testament to your generosity and spirit that you have volunteered your time to share your experiences and to help others on the programme.

I know that you have all put in a huge amount of work to make this initiative a success and I have no doubt but that your hard work and dedication has proved invaluable to all the budding entrepreneurs taking part.

I have followed the Back for Business programme with close personal interest since its inception last year and I know that you have all been using your experience gained overseas to develop new and exciting business ventures. It’s a project that I have been hugely excited about and I have been looking forward to seeing today the strides you have made in the 6 months since I met you last.

In my opening speech back in November I said that I think Government has a role to play in helping foster new talent and that Back for Business is a great example of this in practice. Hearing about your development over the last six months and how you have set up companies and already grown them, I am now convinced of Government’s role and I am so pleased that my Department has been able to support you in your work.

When it comes to business it is always best to let the numbers do the talking and the numbers that we have seen reported are hugely promising
• Eight of you who have taken part in Back for Business have already reported that you have had some exports;
• Thirty five of your group state that you expect to be exporters in five years’ time;
• Thirteen of you have already hired a person to work in your business;
• And finally all of you have reported that you expect to be employers with half of you expecting to employ ten or more in five years’ time.

I believe that these numbers and this level of ambition, developed over six short months, clearly indicates that Back for Business has been a success. It also clearly indicates that there is wealth of entrepreneurial talent among recently returned emigrants.

This programme is a small but important part of the Government’s commitment to making it as easy as possible for Irish emigrants to return home. Reducing barriers to returning emigrants has important implications for national competitiveness. In a growing Irish economy, facilitating the return of skills – the return of people like you - is of ever increasing importance to the country in sustaining economic growth and will support the development of both indigenous and foreign internationally traded investment.

Your success is clearly part of Ireland’s wider economic growth and development. Indeed I am very impressed by the range of areas supported and the diverse expertise of the entrepreneurs which I believe showcases a cross section of Ireland’s healthy business environment.

From digital focused businesses – to tourism enterprises – to food and drinks sales – to rolling out green energy: it is clear that many different talents and many different fields have been supported by Back for Business.

In addition, many communities have been supported and I know that here today there are entrepreneurs from around the country that are representing their towns and counties and contributing to their local economy.

I firmly believe that SMEs are the backbone of the Irish economy and are a vital contributor to regional economic growth and development.

Without your tireless work from Donegal to Cork and Galway to Dublin, we would not be able to kick-start the local economy in Ireland and we would not see the sustained economic growth that we have across all the different sectors in Ireland.

I have thoroughly enjoyed following your progress over recent months and hearing today about not only how far you have all come but also what lies ahead in the next few months and years, and I will be following your future development with interest.

I wish you all the best in your endeavours, I sincerely hope that you will continue to be successful and I also hope that you maintain the connections you have developed.

Finally, once again I sincerely thank everyone involved in the Back for Business team. I know there has been significant support from numerous organisations which have run sessions and contributed so much to the programme. I would like to especially thank the contributions from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland, KPMG, Beauchamps Solicitors, Dogpatch Labs and Voltedge and I am delighted that representatives from all of these organisations will join us for our reception later on.

Most importantly I would like to thank you, the participants, for making Back for Business such a success. It has been your hard work and your dedication that has made this all possible.

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