THE Click For Clare campaign has been heralded as an “invaluable support” for local businesses.

Head of Enterprise at Local Enterprise Office Clare, Padraic McElwee believes the ‘support local’ message being permeated via campaigns promoted by LEO Clare is being supported by the public. Speaking to The Clare Echo, Mr McElwee said that feedback from local businesses would suggest there has been an increased appetite to support local amidst the current global pandemic.

Discussing the work of the Local Enterprise Office, Padraic noted that one of the pillars of what LEO Clare does as an agency is “try and support and stimulate confidence among our business community”. “This year that support is more important than ever and that is why our collaboration with The Clare Echo running the Click for Clare campaign, supporting Ennis Chamber’s Clare Gift Card and the national Local Enterprise Offices campaign Look For Local is so important, encouraging our communities to support and buy from our local businesses.”

Mr McElwee has been in the role of Head of Enterprise since August 2015, having previously enjoyed a 34-year career in financial services. The Donegal native notes that the year 2020 won’t be forgotten in a hurry by LEO Clare due to their unique position as a first point of contact for many businesses trying to navigate the choppy waters of Covid-19. As a point of reference, in a typical year they usually process about 32 to 34 Trading Online Voucher grants, which assist businesses in setting up their online stores. For 2020, his team will have processed more than 400 before the year’s end. They have also provided training to more than 2,200 people and one-to-one mentoring to more than 400 businesses in Clare.

Reflecting on his interactions with businesses this year, Padraic admits the mood has been “a bit strange”.

“In the early days of the pandemic there was a lot of shock, a lot of people didn’t know what to do. Our expert mentoring support became very important, and we worked closely with our clients to put the relevant mentors into their businesses to help them to develop a pathway through the pandemic.

“We saw massive resilience from our local businesses. In the first three or four weeks of the pandemic it was transformational in that people said, ‘right, what can we do?’ And while some sectors are still very adversely impacted like the wet pubs and areas that are providing services, a number of other businesses have found a way to continue trading, generating income and keep employment going.”

Mr McElwee adds, “I would like to wish everybody a very successful and safe trading period in the run-up to Christmas; and I’m confident that our local communities will support our local businesses.”

The Ennis resident tags on a note of caution that 2021 will pose another great challenge which has been largely deflected as an issue due to Covid-19. “Brexit is probably the biggest challenge at the moment. Our concern is that Covid will continue to be there but with the announcements around vaccines, we are confident that towards the middle of 2021 a degree of normality will return. However Covid 19 has deflected a lot of businesses from assessing the impact of Brexit. Brexit has the potential to affect supply chains, the cost base of our local businesses, so that is an immediate concern because whether we like it or not from January 1 there will be customs controls and paperwork related to Brexit even if there’s an agreement or no agreement.”

Mr McElwee is urging local businesses to avail of the range of Brexit supports available from LEO Clare, including risk assessment and customs training workshops.

If you would like to contact LEO Clare about business supports visit www.localenterprise.ie/clare.

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