With Brexit looming, a fact-finding trip to northern France, organised by Kent County Council, went to discover the business potential with our near neighbours. François Reynier, from Kent-based branding agency Acacia, took part and reveals a host of opportunities.
Northern France is one of France's most entrepreneurial regions covering a broad range of industry sectors.
During the visit, the Kent delegation met with several leading local businesses such as Ankama and visited EuraTechnologies and La Plaine Images, two of the region's six centres of excellence. The area also counts no less than six different businesses clusters.
What was immediately striking is the international outlook of the region. The Hauts-De-France, which combines the former Picardy and Nord-Pas-de-Calais areas, is the third French region for foreign investment and fourth for export.
In a 2017 survey, 85% of non-French companies already doing business in the area recommend Hauts-De-France
In a 2017 survey, 85% of non-French companies already doing business in the area recommend Hauts-De-France. It is therefore hardly surprising 2,000 international companies have chosen to have a base there.
During our visit, it became apparent that the reality on the ground is very encouraging for British businesses.
The UK is one of the leading economic partners of the region, and it remains committed to making trading as easy as possible for British companies for many years to come, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.
The Hauts-De-France region is committed to making trading as easy as possible for British companies for many years to come, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.
Of course, some British businesses feel that trading in a language and culture undoubtedly different from the UK could be too challenging.
However, many of those who felt that way at the beginning of their exploration of the French market later found that with the right support they could do business in France as easily as in the UK. Because of the market profile similarities between France and the UK, a business in demand in the UK is well positioned to find a market in France.
The Hauts-De-France region is only next door, so it makes good business sense to explore the opportunities it offers.