The French-Massachusetts Connection

The French-Massachuetts Connection is going strong, according to an open letter published on July 31, 2015, written by Steven P. Eichel, which highlights the growing, and thriving partnership between France and Masschusetts.

For those who have an account with the Boston Business Journal, the full letter can be located here.

For those who do not have access, you can read the letter below:

ViewPoint: The French connection is stronger than ever in Mass.
Jul 31, 2015, 6:00am EDT

It is hard to ignore the synergy between French companies and the commonwealth of Massachusetts, but since the relationship isn’t new and France isn’t an exotic, emerging market, it’s easy to overlook the economic significance of trade between the two.

France and Massachusetts share a long and storied history as business partners. The availability of a highly educated workforce, the proximity of our shores, and the high concentration of educational, research and health care institutions form the core of this “French Connection.” More recently, the emergence of Massachusetts as a center of biotech, media, high tech, pharma and alternative energy — sectors that have become economic engines in France – has expanded and cemented the relationship.

More and more French companies are looking to gain a foothold in Massachusetts, whether it’s through multibillion-dollar deals like Sanofi’s purchase of Genzyme, a French company establishing offices in Massachusetts, or a French entrepreneur starting his company in one of the state’s incubators.

Of the 25 largest foreign-owned firms in Massachusetts, France leads with six. Genzyme Corp., Saint Gobain, Dassault Systems, DigitasLBi, Sapient, and Arnold Worldwide employ more than 9,000 people in Massachusetts. France ranks ninth in terms of trading partners with Massachusetts, with 2.62 percent of total trade.

The availability of capital and recently established incubators are attracting French entrepreneurs as well. Just last month, Thales Group, an aerospace, defense and security firm based in Paris, announced it would open an office at the Cambridge Innovation Center. Thales is embarking on a new venture at the Cambridge site, Thales xPlor, which will search for partnerships that could help grow its business.

The French have taken a stake in Ambri, an American company that is developing a liquid metal battery that will change the way electric grids are operated, allowing more renewable energy sources to be used. Founded by Dr. Donald Sadoway, a MIT professor, Ambri has received funding from the French oil and gas conglomerate Total S.A. Ambri has since opened a manufacturing plant in Marlborough and employees roughly 40 people.

Direct investment by French-owned companies in Massachusetts has created a total of 16,600 jobs in the Boston metro area, according to a study conducted by The Brookings Institution.

In addition to direct investment, Massachusetts companies export between $600 million and $900 million in goods and services to France – one of the state’s largest trading partners.

The commonwealth has positioned itself well to continue to expand business opportunities with French-owned companies. Creating a generally positive business climate, supporting developing industries, such as biotech and green energy, and fostering the creation of incubators for entrepreneurs to launch new ventures have all made Massachusetts an attractive place for foreign investment. The French Connection is thriving.

Steven P. Eichel is a partner in the tax department of Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Boston.

Last modified on 31/08/2015

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