Aix-Marseille-Provence and Arles: One of France’s leading territories for inward investment growth

Aix-Marseille-Provence and Arles: One of France’s leading territories for inward investment growth
From l. to r. : Philippe Stéfanini (CEO of Provence Promotion), Frédéric John (Co-Founder of D-Carbonize), Bernard Deflesselles and Jean-Luc Chauvin ((Vice President and President of Provence Promotion), and Corinne Boucly (Director of Intelcia Marseille)
16 May 2024 / doing business in provence, Grow your business, invest in provence, Start your business

Presentation of Provence Promotion’s 2023 results

On May 6, the Provence Promotion economic development agency, which brings together the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Aix-Marseille-Provence, announced its 2023 results in front of the media. The agency helped bring 71 investment projects to fruition in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, which includes the cities of Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Arles. These investments created or safeguarded 1924 jobs over three years. This exemplary performance was marked by a record increase in Foreign Direct Investment, with 55% of investments coming from outside France.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a key indicator of the attractiveness of the Aix-Marseille-Provence territory. In 2023, Provence Promotion supported 39 international projects, representing a total of 940 jobs. These results are up 11% from 2022 at a time when international investments are down 5% on a national level, according to EY’s 2024 barometer analyzing the investment appeal of France. This confirms Aix-Marseille’s position as a destination of choice for international investors, with projects coming from Africa (15), Europe (9), the United States (7), Asia (5), and the Middle East (3). This geographical diversity also emphasizes the region’s openness to the world and shows that Provence Promotion’s international prospecting strategy is paying dividends.

A particularly emblematic project came from Sumitomo, one of Japan’s oldest companies, when it invested in its Sumika Polymer Compounds subsidiary in St-Martin-de-Crau near Arles. The company will build a new production unit dedicated to making composites from recycled plastics. This investment bears witness to the confidence world business leaders have in the territory’s economic potential.

77% of projects concern business start-ups or new facilities

A total of 55 new establishments or greenfield investments were registered in 2023, representing 77% of all projects. These projects broke down into the opening of 41 subsidiaries by international companies and the creation of 14 new companies. These figures testify the vibrant economy and diverse opportunities in Aix-Marseille-Provence as the portion of new investors in the territory was well above the national average of 36%.

A good example of this positive dynamic is the decision of the innovative Belgian digital start-up D-Carbonize, which specializes in measuring carbon impact, to move to Marseille. Spotted at the Smart City trade fair in Barcelona in 2022 and steered to Aix-Marseille by Provence Promotion, D-Carbonize is setting up at the ZEBOX accelerator to develop the “Carbon Cockpit”, a software package that helps companies define their decarbonization trajectory.

“We knew Provence for its great lifestyle but not from an economic point of view,” explained Frédéric John, the co-founder and operations director of this cutting-edge technology start-up, at the press conference held on May 6, 2024. “Thanks to Provence Promotion, we identified development opportunities, doors were easily opened, and we realized that the area was in line with our expertise and, in particular, with our targets in the industrial sector.”

Among the other innovative projects that incorporate decarbonization issues is the French company C-Inertia, which has set up a plant in Eguilles near Aix-en-Provence to produce next-gen carbon wheels for the automotive sector. The wheels are 100% made in France using a patented industrial process, and the first products have just been released for the motorcycle market.

A positive track record underpinned by key strategic sectors and an advantageous labor pool

The most dynamic sectors for 2023 were the digital economy, with 29 projects and 740 jobs, and the industrial-port economy, with 22 projects and 828 jobs. This concentration of tech projects and strategic activities buttresses the competitiveness of the Aix-Marseille-Provence territory, which stands out as a hub for innovation and growth.

As Corinne Boucly, the director of the Marseille site of the Moroccan business service outsourcing company Intelcia (40 000 employees worldwide, including 4000 in France) pointed out to journalists, the diversity of the labor pool and the high caliber of skills on offer is one of the main advantages for companies that choose to set up in Aix-Marseille-Provence. Intelcia is being supported by Provence Promotion in its new development phase.

That’s what sets it apart from other locations in France. Employability in Marseille is a genuine strength that I think is still undervalued. Our staff includes seniors and young people of various origins. Our team of 500 people at our Estaque site in the south of Marseille is a source of tremendous richness,” explained Corinne Boucly, who is implementing an inclusive HR strategy as part of the launch of a new IT service for businesses in Marseille.

According to the EY barometer of France’s investment appeal that was published on May 2, 2024, for the period 2019-2023, the Aix-Marseille-Provence metro area ranked 3rd in terms of FDI and associated jobs. Over the same period, it also achieved the best balance between the different operating divisions of international companies setting up in the region.

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