Paris and Marseille are often pegged as the best places in Europe to do business. Their status as financial hubs, and their diverse economies make them wildly attractive to potential business partners both foreign and domestic. But, as a result, these markets are increasingly flooded. As Paris’ population grows and Marseille wades in corruption allegations and class disparity, businesses are looking elsewhere to make their international endeavors worthwhile. But where?
We’ve compiled a list of the top French cities that other businesses are keeping secret. No need to go for broke in the City of Lights. Looking beyond the Eiffel may prove just as lucrative (if not more so) for small businesses looking to expand internationally. Without the hassle that comes with a large population and more competitors, small businesses can take advantage of these smaller markets, and take the lead before anyone else gets the chance.
Following some post-war decline, Nantes is steadily becoming an economic hub in the West of France. Known as a thriving port and industrial city, Nantes has historically been a center for manufacturing. Ship building had been at the heart of the economy, but the closure of the shipyards in 1987 began a process of deindustrialization that has extended into the present.
Moving away from industry and manufacturing has resulted in the resurrection of Nantes as a center of culture and innovation in France. The recent opening of a contemporary art park has revived social activity, and cutting-edge engineering efforts to reduce carbon emissions has bolstered the economy and given the go-ahead to international business partners. Composites, agri-food, and engineering are among the city’s main business sectors, making the import of goods to support those industries vital in sustaining the economy.
Composites, agri-food, and engineering are among the city’s main business sectors, making the import of goods to support those industries vital in sustaining the economy.
Through engineering and environmental innovation, Nantes has seen much economic growth that is largely hidden from foreign investors. Small businesses should get in while they can, and take advantage of the resurgence of this small city in the West of France.
Often noted as the world’s fastest growing city, Montpellier is experiencing rapid expansion on all fronts. In the last 25 years, the city has doubled its population and economic output, resulting in rapid real-estate development. However, Montpellier is also noted as one of the world’s most cluttered cities, as its storied architecture and grid, along with little expansion in terms of commercial buildings, has stunted some of the potential for domestic businesses. Instead of looking in, companies in the area are looking out for international investment and supply.
Electronics, textile weaving, and pharmaceuticals are among the top industries in the region, with tourism being the backbone of the economy. Aware of the supply issue for these areas, Montpellier offers “personalized reception for foreign companies” looking to invest or set-up-shop in the area. This program provides specific support to international companies landing in Montpellier, for investment and on-the-ground purposes, and is ranked 4th in the world’s top 10 business incubators. With such a focus on international businesses, Montpellier is quietly becoming a world-leader in international business development.
Electronics, textile weaving, and pharmaceuticals are among the top industries in the region, with tourism being the backbone of the economy
No, we didn’t make a mistake. Strasbourg is a very old French city along the Rhine, and is not in Germany. Located in Eastern France, Strasbourg is an important center of manufacturing and engineering. It’s a hub for rail, road, and river transportation due to its proximity to the major international river, and allows for easy trade between neighboring EU nations. Strasbourg is a leading region for French exports per capita, with 35% of companies receiving foreign capital. As a comparison, the French national average is 23%.
Strasbourg is a leading region for French exports per capita, with 35% of companies receiving foreign capital. As a comparison, the French national average is 23%
The city and its surrounding area is even constructing an International Business District, an area dedicated to development and international relations. It even provides housing for those visiting or staying long-term for business. So, why is it on this list?
Surprisingly, Strasbourg has yet to break into the international scene, with only a handful of major companies setting up operations there. Many of the innovations and incentives aren’t very well advertised, being only at the municipal level. This opens a major opportunity for small businesses to establish themselves before the big guys get a chance. Specifically, Swedish, German, and US businesses take up the majority of foreign operations there, so you won’t go in alone or blind. Kept on the hush, Strasbourg could easily become a major international player in continental and overseas markets. Get in while the getting’s good.
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