EBACE Convention News

French agency luring firms to Saint-Denis

 - May 6, 2009, 8:33 AM

Recent public attacks on business aviation have sought to portray the industry as exhibiting unwarranted privilege at a time when so many are suffering in the economic crisis. In few places is the contrast between wealth and poverty more apparent than across the fence at Paris Le Bourget Airport, but local French officials are here in Geneva this week to highlight the positive aspects of the paradoxical relationship between that bastion of private aviation and the underprivileged neighborhoods surrounding it.

Economic development agency Seine-Saint-Denis Avenir (SSDA) is exhibiting here at EBACE (Booth No. 1532) showcasing local talent and seeking to attract more firms to the French département of Seine-Saint-Denis, one of the poorest districts in the country. The agency–currently staffed by 11 and expected to grow to 14–wants residents to be able to tap into the opportunities at Le Bourget, and at the same time, SSDA president Francis Dubrac believes the community has much to offer companies wanting to establish bases near Paris.

According to the local authorities, Seine-Saint-Dens, just northeast of the French capital, is doing very well in terms of the number of businesses started every year, ranking third out of eight départements in the Ile-de-France region. However, the Conseil Général local government admitted that there are strong disparities inside département number 93 (as Seine-Saint-Denis is commonly referred to). The Conseil wants the economic growth to be more evenly spread “to allow those inhabitants who have been kept away from it to benefit from it.

“We are lucky to have two international airports–Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle and Le Bourget–on our territory. This is a boon in terms of economic development,” Dubrac told EBACE Convention News. Several small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are here at SSDA’s booth showing off their capabilities.

SSDA representatives also are looking for companies to settle in Le Bourget. According to Dubrac, companies involved in the aviation industry often gravitate to the same areas. For example, graduate engineering school Estaca, which specializes in automotive and aerospace courses, is finding its current headquarters in Levallois-Perret too small and could well be lured by the 93, Dubrac hopes. The agency helps companies to work through the bureaucracy, as well as with site location.

Among local attributes, Dubrac mentioned the proximity of CDG airport. “From any European capital city, you can land at CDG by 9 a.m. and arrive at a meeting faster than if you were to have to go into Paris,” he emphasized. He said has strong hopes that rail transportation to Le Bourget will improve in the coming years.

Moreover, Dubrac said the cost of property in Seine-Saint-Denis is far lower than it is in Paris–an estimated difference of 30 to 40 percent. “We have some 4,000 square miles of brown-field sites,” he added, noting that there already are 800 foreign companies operating in the district.

In Bobigny, the capital of Seine-Saint-Denis, the Chamber of Skilled Trades (Chambre des Métiers) is building a major training facility that will accommodate 2,500 in various disciplines. One area is expected to be air transport, which will offer courses in security, maintenance and cabin completion. It is to be linked to the aircraft completion and modification businesses at Le Bourget.

Dubrac noted that the local prefect regularly helps Seine-Saint-Denis inhabitants to get security jobs at CDG airport, which employs a large security staff. This further helps to alleviate the local unemployment rate, he said.

SSDA was created in December last year and operates with an annual budget of about $4 million.