West of Ireland investment fund more than doubles in value since 2001

State-backed fund has supported 5,300 jobs in the west since its foundation

Western Development Commission chief executive Tomás Ó Síocháin, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys and Western Investment Fund manager Gillian Buckley

A State-backed fund set up in 2001 to invest public money in businesses in the west of Ireland has more than doubled in value and supported at least 5,300 jobs in the region since its foundation.

Conducted on behalf of the Western Development Commission (WDC), the State agency tasked with encouraging economic and social development in the western region, new research by economic consultancy Indecon indicates that the WDC’s Western Investment Fund has made “an impressive contribution” to economic activity in the region.

As well as seed and venture capital, the fund provides loan financing to companies and community projects across Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare. It co-invests with private sector investors on a commercial basis, and all returns are reinvested back into the region, the WDC said in a statement on Monday.

The fund, which was originally allocated €31.75 million from the exchequer in 2001, has since invested over €61 million into companies over the past two decades. The value of the fund has increased almost two and a half times since then, Indecon found, and is now worth over €73 million.

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Indecon said the fund, which has been self-financing since 2010, has delivered an overall €3.3 billion economic boost to the Irish economy over its lifetime. The research suggests that at least 5,300 jobs have been supported by companies backed by the fund, which have also generated an estimated €1.6 billion in exports and €276 million in tax revenues for the State.

Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys said Indecon’s research demonstrates “the very significant and positive impact” the fund has made.

“The fund has time and time again provided essential finance to businesses at crucial stages in their development,” she said. “This has resulted in highly impressive returns for the taxpayer and an ongoing legacy of success and growth for west of Ireland-based businesses and community enterprises.”

Gillian Buckley, investment manager at the WDC, said: “The fund has proved a very patient investor and even though investment is a calculated risk, the report shows the very impressive impact it has had on the region. A great number of supported companies have reported that they would not be here today if it was nor for the early support of the fund which has helped businesses to leverage further funds.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times