Editor’s note: This was originally published on the website of WTC Utah, a strategic partner of the Salt Lake Chamber.
Leaders from World Trade Center Utah and several local businesses and organizations spent four days in June in the Côte D’Azur region of France, visiting Nice, Cannes and Sophia Antipolis on a trade mission. The visit was held in conjunction with the Innovative City 2014 show and the 2014 Smart Data forum, two international events held in Nice.
The Utah delegation was hosted by Team Côte D’Azur, an organization that manages foreign direct investment for the region of Southern France. Brenner Adams, U.S. strategic liaison for Team Côte D’Azur, says the mini trade mission was beneficial for the participating Utah companies as they explored opportunities to start or expand operations in Europe and examined the “soft landing” opportunities in Côte D’Azur, including office space, on-site professional assistance and robust networking possibilities.
“All of the government subsidies, on top of the services provided, really helped solidify the benefits of what they call a ‘soft landing,’” he notes. World Trade Center Utah COO Elizabeth Goryunova adds that the Utah delegation was able to review the host of services provided to foreign companies by the local government, including legal, financial, real estate and HR and also visit a firm that just established an R&D facility in the area.
The business environment in Côte D’Azur is similar to Utah, with high-tech, life sciences and other cluster industries growing rapidly. She says the local government makes a concerted effort to improve conditions for young and startup companies to succeed there. The Utah delegation was able to visit two tech clusters where they could see a “nursery” or “Fab Lab” for early concept work, an incubator for full proof of concept work and accelerators for proven solutions. The delegation also met with several companies in various stages of startup and learned how the public sector supported them and the private sector embraced them.
In Sophia Antipolis, the Utah delegation toured Accenture Technology Labs, a company that explores and applies emerging technologies with a particular focus on the banking and insurance industries. Goryunova says Accenture is a systems integrator that creates custom solutions for businesses. She was fascinated by technology that can recognize an individual’s gender and then present marketing and promotional materials according to the person’s gender type. Other technology developed by the company is used with security systems to identify unattended objects and sound an alarm when such an object is detected. In Nice, the Utah delegation participated in a reception with Mayor Christian Estrosi, who was invited to visit Utah and expressed interest in coming to the Beehive State during the first quarter of 2015. Goryunova also met with leaders from the Nice Chamber of Commerce and says she was particularly interested in learning about the Chamber’s structure and opportunities to share best practices.
Delegation member Eric Shaw, who is director of the Salt Lake City Community and Economic Development department, was a presenter and expert in a panel discussion during the international Global Innovative City Conference, which gathered political, technical and education leaders from across the globe and focused on smart, sustainable cities. Shaw’s presentation focused on “Salt Lake City Systems Integration.” He was joined on the panel by David Lisnard, mayor of Cannes and other international experts.
The delegation also met with several young companies that expressed interest in coming to Utah to explore opportunities in the United States and use Utah as an entry point, and also met with a large data center that is interested in the U.S. market. Those meetings were facilitated by Team Côte D’Azur. “The mini trade mission was very informative for me, both as a representative of the region and as the CEO of a local Utah startup,” say Adams. “I was even able to meet with a potential client who agreed to beta test our product as is, with no localization at all. I’ve always said ‘It’s not just who you know, it’s what they think about you.’ It was clear that our guides from Team Côte D’Azur, Christophe Perez and Jacques Lesieur, are not only well connected in all of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but their contacts also respected them enough to make us all feel welcome to explore business in those regions from southern France, and feel that we now had personal friends to expedite our efforts.”
Goryunova expressed similar sentiments. “If you want to succeed in a foreign market you need someone that can guide you. It is equally important to ensure that relationship that you develop with partners abroad is mutually beneficial. From what I saw, there are opportunities for both: Utah businesses in Côte D’Azur that would be able to receive any guidance they need and for companies from France who are looking for presence in Utah. Our successful mission is an indication that the partnership we have with Team Côte D’Azur has a great potential.”