Sunday, March 21, 2010

Supporting entrepreneurs is the key to our economic recovery

Economic activity is inextricably linked to entrepreneurial activity. The state has a role and a responsibility to both generate and redistribute wealth. The government and local authorities can create a favourable environment in which jobs can be created and can also directly create jobs through the provision of public services, the building of infrastructure and stimulating the economy with direct investment. However the key to Waterford’s future economic success is in supporting and encouraging entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is about taking risks. It demands courage, stamina, energy and talent. I believe the skills, enthusiasm and creativity of our people must be used to build a sustainable and prosperous future for Waterford. We need to enable people to establish vibrant new businesses, social enterprises and co-operatives. The Waterford road to recovery will not be found in solely looking to Dublin. We need to get things moving locally by using the public and private sector, enterprise agencies and educational providers and employer and employee organisations to kick-start local economic recovery. We need to get things done and adopt an attitude of ‘Just do it’.

This work has already started. The new Waterford Crystal project and destination Waterford are examples. However we must now look beyond these ventures and identify potential growth areas for economic development. I believe a specific focus should be put on young people and self employment. Many of the young unemployed want to take control of their own destiny. They should be encouraged to do so. By following their passions, utilising the skills they have acquired and turning them into enterprise, the future is in their hands. This is the most effective way to encourage a better attitude to entrepreneurship in the city. We need to ensure that self-employment is a real option for some of the young unemployed.

Two areas for potential growth are in the IT sector (Animation, gaming and digital media) and in Green Technology. I wrote about the potential of Green Technology in a previous post and have tabled a motion to Waterford City Council seeking a City Green Tech Plan. The I.T. sector is an area where we have huge potential and obvious advantages. Waterford has the potential to be a digital media leader. It is recognised that Irish digital media firms are becoming a global force in particular niches such as mobile technologies, animation and digital video and gaming. Both animation and gaming are areas where new and creative industries can be developed with the help of Waterford Institute of Technology.

Enterprise agencies need to work with Waterford Institute of Technology to explore ways in which practical business; training and financial support can be given to those studying in these areas who demonstrate entrepreneurial flair. We need to address potential skill shortages of those working in this field particularly in the area of sales and marketing. We also need to prioritise start-up funding and premises to digital media start-up companies.

So there are sections of the Waterford economy that have the potential to put local people back to work. Sectors where we enjoy a natural advantage such as tourism, sectors where we have begun to build an emerging reputation through W.I.T. in the I.T. digital and gaming sectors and sectors whose potential has not been tapped such as green technologies. In order to reach our potential and kick-start our economy we need to act locally and foster a new spirit of entrepreneurship which gravitates around getting things done.

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