Last Autumn at a brain-storming session in LIT with Dr Fergal Barry and Jimmy Browne, we got to thinking how we could support and encourage enterprise growth and employment in Limerick… from this session came the idea for the National Franchise Centre. And LIT President Dr Maria Hinfelaar embraced this concept immediately as another contributor to LIT’s “Enterprise Ladder”. Hence the partnership between LIT and Limerick Chamber to launch the National Franchise Centre.

With the support of AIB we secured a premises right in the heart of Limerick city, and Emerson kindly sponsored the furniture to kit-out the building. By January 2011 the National Franchise Centre was open for business and the first six-month intensive enterprise development Franchise Acceleration Start-up Training (FAST) programme commenced. The first third-level centre of excellence for franchise development in Ireland – and indeed from what we know, Europe – the NFC represents a new milestone in education and business support training.

At the official launch last Tuesday (7th June) by the Minister of State for Trade & Development, Jan O’Sullivan TD, the first set of FAST participants graduated . It was a fantastic day. With sponsorship from AIB, The Discovery Partnership and Bridgewater prizes to the value of €27,000 were awarded to three new budding entrepreneurs. 20 participants have now completed the first FAST programme; 20 fewer people are unemployed. 20 new businesses have been established in Limerick which have the potential of employing up to 50 people over the next 3 years. As more participants enter and graduate from the FAST programme we believe over the next five years up to 500 new jobs will be created.

Tuesday’s launch received some very positive press… check out the following:

RTE TV (9mins 45 secs in)

RTE Radio 1 news (scroll down to the link ‘Franchise centre creates 20 new businesses)