Team Côte d’Azur, a facilitator of American attraction in the Alpes-Maritimes since 1960

With a total of 299 US-owned companies, the United States currently represents the largest foreign investor of the Alpes-Maritimes. Each year, Team Côte d’Azur, in charge of promoting business activities in the Azurean territory, plays a key role in assisting American companies wishing to invest or set up in the region. The agency currently updates an annual database of up to 500 North-American companies with strong growth in the High-Technology sector, and which are exporting or globalizing their businesses.

Historical context: Sophia Antipolis, a powerful European hub, has welcomed many US companies since the 1960s

Currently the largest foreign investor of the Alpes-Maritimes, the United States first settled in the region in the 1960s. 1961 was a particularly crucial year, given the arrival of two American multinational corporations specializing in IT: IBM, which established offices in La Gaude, and Texas Instrument in Villeneuve-Loubet. The 1980s was just as important, with a series of investments coming from several American companies, such as Digital Equipment based in Sophia Antipolis since 1980, and Dow Chemical since 1981. By then, Sophia Antipolis had already confirmed its ambition to become a reknown international technology park. Overtime and still true today, Sophia Antipolis, dubbed the European “Silicon Valley”, has turned into a powerful hub welcoming many US firms, especially those specializing in High-Technology.

Despite the dot-com crisis in the 1990s, the period also revealed several socio-economic dynamics which are still topical in the region. Those dynamics include the capacity to retain and attract workers thanks to local business opportunities and the renowned quality of life. Many American employees therefore chose to remain in the area and launch spin-offs, startups or consulting firms. Such favorable opportunities encouraged other major US businesses including Cisco, Oracle, and Hewlett-Packard to invest in the Côte d’Azur between 1990 and 2000. Furthermore, by establishing its European branch in Sophia Antipolis in 1995, W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) led the way to raising web standards in the technology park. Since 2000, many other American companies (Synopsis, Dolby Digital, Integra, Wall Street Systems, Symantec, IFF, Accenture…) set up in the region, mainly to develop their European expansion strategy and therefore contributing to the local economic development and job creation.

A majority of US set-ups in the Alpes-Maritimes were supported by Team Côte d’Azur

Since then, the Azurean territory has kept on attracting American investors, mostly High-Tech experts such as Symphony, Syneos, Booking, Fortinet, and Freescale. Some of the most significant involvements by Team Côte d’Azur include:

  • 2015: ANSYS and DOLBY, IT experts which respectively opened an R&D center with 15 employees in Villeneuve-Loubet and Sophia Antipolis;
  • 2016: CONDUENT and Transperfect, which launched a call center with 300 employees in Sophia Antipolis and a R&D center with 20 workers in Valbonne;
  • 2017: Symphony, an IT expert which established a new R&D center in Sophia Antipolis and recruited 100 people; Poolside and LLD Europe, specializing in the Service industry and which opened its offices in Antibes and Nice; Zenytime, a Health expert;
  • 2018: Postprocess and Kenzai, IT specialists based in Sophia Antipolis and hired over 10 employees; Syneos, another Health expert employed 120 people.

On average, 10 to 15% of set-up decisions carried out by Team Côte d’Azur each year originate from Northern America. Those decisions represent about 20% of the total jobs created. Each year, Team Côte d’Azur updates a database of up to 500 North-American companies with strong growth in the High-Technology sector, and which are exporting or globalizing their businesses.

The agency promoting business activity in the Azurean territory plays a key role in assisting American companies seeking to invest or set up in the region. To highlight its achievements up until today, Team Côte d’Azur attended the exclusive conference “An American Evening” hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Nice Côte d’Azur on April 24th, 2019. The evening focused on the investor role of the US, their impact on the economic development of the Côte d’Azur, and the involvement of numerous local stakeholders to encourage American investment. In June 2019, Team Côte d’Azur also visited high value-added players in California, Nevada and the South of Utah. Its goal was to approach investors and companies wishing to expand their business activities in the Alpes-Maritimes region. The agency met incubators, such as Plug and Play in California, high growth SMEs, investment funds, and unicorn startups seeking more competitive locations especially compared to the Silicon Valley. Just like Symphony did when opening an R&D center in Sophia Antipolis with the help of Team Côte d’Azur through the whole process. To celebrate this arrival, the agency will participate alongside major local economic partners to the inauguration of Symphony on July 5th, 2019.

Through its international prospecting mission, Team Côte d’Azur also plays an essential part in strengthening its year-long economic and academic partnership with the state of Utah. In particular, this year a new Summer Exchange Academic Program has been developed with Eccles Business School, which is part of the University of Utah. This agreement was also largely supported by Team Côte d’Azur, which made a significant contribution in attracting and making international talents and local stakeholders such as UCA (University of Côte d’Azur), and prestigious companies available. Overall, this unique experience will provide participating American students with opportunities in terms of recruitment or new business creation in the Azurean territory.

A current total of 299 US-owned companies and many strategic partnerships with key local stakeholders

Currently, the United States represent:

  • The largest foreign investor in the Alpes-Maritimes, with a total of 299 US-owned companies, accounting for 14% of the total FIEs (Foreign Investment Enterprises).
  • The largest recruiter, with a total of 6,400 workers, representing 18% of the total jobs created by FIEs.
  • The largest exporter, accounting for 14% of the total exports in the region, followed by Italy (9%), and Switzerland (8%).

Outstandingly, most American firms in Côte d’Azur are specializing in ICT, with a third of their workforce being local. Other promising fields include Mechanical and Electrical Manufacturing, Life Sciences, Clothing, and Leasing.

To keep on strengthening their economic relations, the Côte d’Azur region and the United States also launch regular new partnerships together. For instance, the states of Utah and San Diego, key partners of the Côte d’Azur, initiated close economic alliances by creating “soft bridges”, which enable an easy access to technologies, talents, research and academic programs from both sides of the Atlantic. There are also many close diplomatic and economic relations between the Côte d’Azur and America, including the twinning of Nice and Miami or Nice and Houston. In terms of Education, many American and Azurean universities partner up to offer better exchange of knowledge and a higher level of training. For instance, UCA (Université Côte d’Azur) partnered up with Orange County in South California, SKEMA Business School with Raleigh in North-Carolina, and UTAH University with Team Côte d’Azur (mutual integration of interns in Salt Lake City and Nice).

As the fourth-largest customer and the fifth-largest supplier of the Côte d’Azur, the United States will continue to be an important key investor and contribute to the economic development of the Azurean territory.

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