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Why every Kent business should visit the Hauts-De-France

The Hauts-De-France’s economy has boomed in recent years and presents a golden opportunity for South-East based businesses. FSB member François Reynier reports on a recent fact-finding mission organised by Kent County Council.

Last September I was part of a delegation of Kentish businesses invited to attend a two-day visit of the Hauts-De-France region.

Northern France is one of France's most entrepreneurial region covering a broad range of industry sectors. During our visit, the Kent delegation met with several leading local businesses 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 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. It is therefore hardly surprising that its 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 Hauts-De-France 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.

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. Lille being just 1h away by Eurostar from Ebbsfleet, why not come and see for yourself?

This trade mission was part of the Innovative Sector Exchange project (www.iseproject.eu). For more information about Lille and the Hauts-De-France region visit (www.lillesagency.com).

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François Reynier is creative consultant at Acacia, a Kent-based branding and marketing consultancy working in France and the UK (www.acaciauk.net).