KILKENNY County Council has vowed to lend its full support to a new business venture from a Kilkenny-based entrepreneur with a plan to create new jobs in Ireland.
‘Connect Ireland’, which is part of Terry Clune’s Taxback group, is the company appointed by the Government to lead the Succeed in Ireland initiative. Mr Clune addressed last week’s county council meeting to explain the scheme and seek the support of the local authority.
The idea is that due to centuries of emigration, Irish people have many connections all over the world.
Mr Clune says that people can use these connections to find companies looking to expand, and explain to them why they should come here. His new venture actively promotes these connections through an online referral network, liaising with the companies to facilitate the process.
If the company does choose to expand in Ireland, the person who introduced them receives financial compensation between €1,500 and €3,000.
“We have set up a hub where people can let us know if companies are expanding,” Mr Clune told the council members.
“We can take the lead now, and answer the call of anyone with connections.”
County manager Joe Crockett said the time had come to ‘mobilise the entire Kilkenny diaspora across the world’:
“In terms of economic development, we have placed a lot of weight on foreign direct investment,” he said.
“We should regard this in the same way as we do the IDA. We are going to roll it out across the county.”
Mr Clune told the council that there are risks involved, but he feels strongly that the initiative will ultimately be successful.
“I am financing this initiative. I’m taking a risk, but not a big risk because I think it will work,” he said.
Cllr Martin Brett (FG) said he would fully support the idea. He praised Mr Clune for the initiative.
“You have spoken with a level of positivity that I haven’t heard from anybody in this country for some time,” he said.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. I hope you make another million out of it.”
Cllr Tomas Breathnach (Lab) said that people underestimated how positively ‘Irishness’ was perceived around the world. Making reference to successful emigrants from Kilkenny in the past, such as James Hoban who designed the White House, he said the council could do its part.
“The most interesting expression I heard was ‘real and sustainable’ jobs,” he said.
“As a council, we have made connections with many people overseas. We could develop the relationships that we have, for example with Leicester.
“People tend to look very far away. Where we have connections, it is worth exploring to the best of our abilities.”
Mr Clune initially developed his idea when talking to an elderly woman whose relatives had left Ireland in the 1820s and gone on to help establish the Coca-Cola company. He says that while giants such as Google, eBay and Pfizer already have operations here, attracting the small and medium enterprises would be the way forward.
“The big guys already know the benefits of coming to Ireland,” said Mr Clune.
“How we can create new jobs is about getting the message out to smaller companies. It’s a simple matter of calling them up and letting them know that Ireland is looking.”