Reproduced from The Independent
By Gavin McLoughlin
13th February 2015
Government-backed lender Microfinance Ireland (MFI) aims to support an additional 1,000 jobs in 2015 by providing finance to small businesses.
The lender – which gives money to businesses that haven’t been able to raise funds elsewhere – is in its second year of operations and already supports 1,000 Irish jobs.
Around 430 businesses have got money from MFI, which received €10m of public funds as part of the Government’s ‘Action Plan for Jobs’.
It has approved loans of €6m since being set up in 2012 and aims to lend a further €6m this year.
The average size of an MFI loan is €15,000.
Supporting 1,000 further jobs will depend on whether the economy grows at a rate of 3pc per annum, MFI chief executive Michael Johnson said.
Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash said SMEs “really are the engine of the economy”. “I am particularly pleased to see that 75pc of the micro-enterprises surveyed by Microfinance Ireland say they plan to hire new staff this year … this level of confidence among Microfinance Ireland’s clients bodes well for our targets to return to full employment by 2018,” Mr Nash said.
More than three-quarters of MFI’s loans have been made to businesses outside Dublin.
To qualify for a loan, businesses must have fewer than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2m a year.
Mr Nash praised what he saw as “a strong level of engagement between MFI and local enterprise offices (LEOs).
“This is a joined-up approach and frankly makes a lot of sense as micro-enterprises can go to their LEO for advice, mentoring and to access supports available from Government, but also can use the LEO as a link to getting small loans,” he said.
Some of the risk taken by MFI is underwritten by the European Progress Microfinance Fund, which was designed to support such organisations.