Q You were at MIPIM in March showing some of your plans for urban regeneration in the city centre of Lyon – what was the feedback and level of interest there?
A Lyon has been attending MIPIM for more than 10 years, as it is an essential venue for promoting its development projects and its ambition to attract foreign investors. Today investors know our assets and are eager to get involved in the evolution of the city.
Lyon has launched important urban regeneration projects along its rivers to revitalise old industrial quarters. Vaise was one of the first districts targeted for action and it is now home to many companies in the sector of digital applications and video games, including Atari, Electronic Arts, IBM, Cegid, a leader in customer relationship management software, and others.
Riverside developments in the city centre reflect our ambition for a real metamorphosis. Our efforts have been recognised at MIPIM, since the Cité Internationale, designed by Renzo Piano, was nominated for the prestigious award in the Business Centres category. The site covers an area of more than 190,000 square metres (m2), with offices, a convention centre and a 3000-seat amphitheatre, a cinema complex, a contemporary art museum and residential buildings. Our achievement on this site gave Lyon the place it deserves among the top metropolitan areas at MIPIM.
Another priority project for me was the Rhone river embankment transformation. Known in France as the Berges du Rhône, this area, which had previously been used as a car park, has been redeveloped as a public green space with paths for non-motor traffic (cyclists, skaters and pedestrians). Since its opening in the beginning of May, it offers a pleasant green promenade running through the city centre of Lyon.
We have also concentrated our efforts on launching a brand new quarter called Lyon Confluence, which doubles the size of the city centre with 150 hectares and one million m2 of constructible land. By 2009, this site will have offices, innovative residences with energy saving systems, a leisure activity centre and a marina on the Saône river.
Q What has been the rationale behind the various development projects you have encouraged in the city, and what have been the effects so far? In what ways do these projects boost efforts to attract inward investment?
A The priority of my term is the economic development and the international promotion of our metropolis.
We have had significant success in areas such as the business real estate market, which now offers more than 200,000m2, and 70% of the investment comes from foreign countries, primarily Germany, the UK, the US and Australia.
The most telling indicators that confirm the encouraging increase of foreign investments are the figures of the past five years, with €200m invested in 2001, as compared with €760m in 2006.
Two months ago, I laid the first stone of Lyon’s second largest business tower, called La Tour Oxygène, which will have 28,000m2 of offices and 11,040m2 of shops.
We are also reinforcing urban transport infrastructures by doubling the tramway lines, extending the metro service and creating an express connection to the airport with a new tramway.
I am committed to developing ‘soft’ modes of transport inside and outside the city centre so as to limit car traffic as much as possible. The Vélo’V project is one feature of this policy; it allows anyone to rent a bike anywhere in the city, virtually free of charge.
Q What do you consider to be Lyon’s biggest disadvantages in terms of attracting FDI, and how do you intend to correct them? What are the city’s advantages?
A Our main concern is the weak international notoriety of Lyon. This means that for foreigners, France is Paris, Mont Blanc and Saint Tropez. It is sometimes difficult to promote all the advantages of being the second largest economy of a country. Cities such as Liverpool or Manchester face the same difficulties in England, to some extent being overshadowed by London.
The findings in different international studies are nonetheless very positive for us: once people know Lyon, the city is perceived very positively. Companies that have invested in Lyon tend to boost their presence due to the high quality of life in a city with a more human face. They appreciate Lyon’s ease of access, as well as its high quality workforce and exceptionally competitive real estate market with office and housing prices 30%-50% lower than other European cities, particularly Paris.
The Lyon Part-Dieu business district is the second largest in France with 850,000m2 of office space, surpassed only by La Défense in Paris.
A partnership agreement signed in January between 11 key local economic actors (among them are the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourist Office, the Economic Development Agency, the Convention Centre and Greater Lyon) resulted in a new marketing strategy – ONLY LYON – with the objective to strengthen the national and international notoriety of the city.
Q How would you summarise the city's FDI promotion strategy?
A Over the years, various mayors of Lyon, such as Raymond Barre, have given priority to strengthening the competitiveness and the internationalisation of Lyon. Large urban projects such as the Cité Internationale, the Part-Dieu business district and the Confluence redevelopment have all moved forward despite changes in the local political context. I believe this is an important asset for Lyon. Our economic policies are all shared by representatives of local economic chambers, employers’ organisations and the academic world. This policy of economic governance is structured under the banner “Greater Lyon – a Business Spirit”.
Q What would you say are your top priorities for the remainder of your time in office?
A I have a few months left in my term during which I plan to strengthen two axes of my action: international development and the University of Lyon.
As the current president of the Eurocities network of the 130 largest cities in Europe, I have integrated a broad vision of territorial attractiveness. This is why I pushed for the launch of ONLY LYON – our international ‘brand’ – to promote Lyon and make its citizens proud to live here.
Higher education is also being federated as we have decided to gather all the major institutions under a single banner dedicated to research and education. The official name will be “the University of Lyon”. It is an important step towards greater efficiency in making Lyon more attractive in the academic world.
Q In which sectors in particular do you feel Lyon can be highly competitive, and why?
A Sectors in which Lyon has a real competitive advantage in terms of the quality of research and development and a skilled workforce are the life sciences (including oncology and virology) and green chemistry.
The former represents 22 R&D projects with a total investment of €86.65m (30% state financed). Greater Lyon contributed €1.8m.
Regarding the second sector, a competitiveness cluster known as Axelera has been established, and its two big R&D projects represent a total investment of €26.75m, with the state contributing €9.5m and Greater Lyon €1m.
One sign of our excellence is that both sectors have been selected by the French government to join the 15 world class clusters which receive state funding.
We are also competitive in attracting European headquarters, as Lyon is ranked as the least expensive European metropolis in terms of the price of real estate and housing but also thanks to its exceptional location at the crossroads of southern and northern Europe.
Q In your opinion, what should be done at the national level to improve France's business climate and make the task of FDI promotion easier?
A In France, taxation and other aspects related to the business climate are matters of the State. But I do think France has to improve in offering a clearer tax system and stimulate and facilitate arrival of companies and their managers, for instance.
Nevertheless, the local authorities play a major role in fostering a favourable climate for business. For example, the Lyon urban area was the first to vote for tax exemptions for innovative start-up companies.
National initiatives for competitiveness clusters, research and innovation have taken concrete form in our local area. By showing our ability to innovate and be reactive we obtained certification for five clusters, among which two are on an international scale, as mentioned previously.
I would also like to focus on our excellent results regarding entrepreneurship in the Lyon area. Our metropolis ranks among the top three cities in terms of business creation.
This result reflects both the vitality of our entrepreneurs and the mobilisation of 25 key local players acting to develop the spirit of entrepreneurship. Greater Lyon organised this action under the banner “Lyon: a Business City” offering customised services to all kinds of projects.