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Friday, December 8, 2023

Michaël Delafosse explains why and how

THE GALLERY – In February 2022, you held the Territorial Conference on urban planningAnd in June 2022, the MedVallée Conference. Why the Economic Conference now, mid-term?

Michaël DELAFOSSE, mayor (PS) of Montpellier and president of Montpellier Méditerranée Métropole – Montpellier is a territory that has become a benchmark for its economic development and the voluntarism of public authorities. It happened through territorial marketing, “Montpellier the gifted” (initiated in the 1980s by Georges Frêche, then mayor of Montpellier, Editor’s note), through its incubation strategy with the BIC (Business Innovation Center, classified in the Top 5 of the best public incubators in the world in the UBI Global ranking since 2014, Editor’s note). She was a pioneer in territorial approaches. In 2013, the first dynamic was launched with a sector, that of French Tech, as part of a national dynamic. We launched MedVallée to encourage the fertilization of scientific research. It’s an affirmation of the territory and a way to start positioning yourself because I remind you, I became mayor after Montpellier lost its status as regional capital! Since in Toulouse, they make planes, I suggested that in Montpellier, we position ourselves on “one health”… We have just inaugurated the Innovation Hall and today, the Cambacérès district is dedicated to the economy. We have just launched the development and transitions agency which takes additional levels compared to my initial commitment. On the ICC, Montpellier wins eight winners in the national call for projects “The great image factory”… But as Edgar Morin says, “ everything that does not regenerate degenerates “. The role of the Metropolis is to organize, to be an amplifier, to orchestrate. It is not because we were good that we should rest on our achievements. We must now set the course for 2030-2040. This is important for the territory of the Montpellier Metropolis at a time when other Metropolises are reviewing their economic development strategies, some even giving up on having one! Some territories are calling for decline. I claim sobriety. Decreasing carbon yes, but I want progress, innovation.

We are going through multiple crises: economic, social, energy, climate, etc. How will this roadmap resonate with this context?

The world is changing much more than we thought after the Covid crisis, where the important thing was the reconquest of our health sovereignty. The war in Ukraine and the logic of new empires are redistributing value chains. Ecological issues legitimately question us about land with the ZAN (zero net artificialization, Editor’s note), and I am not an anti-ZAN mayor… We must read what the crises tell us. When we help the economy get through the crisis through a massive level of public investment, I make a Keynesian choice: we do not let go of businesses and we give them clarity. For example, the Montpellier University Hospital with 736 million euros of investment (in the CHU real estate master plan between 2024 and 2031, Editor’s note), it is a message… Economic development must indeed respond to the great challenges of the century: health, energy – that nuclear power becomes a marginal energy in favor of renewables -, the digitalization of society, cultural and creative industries because the image is our world today and video games a sector of the future.

What is your method for writing this roadmap for economic development which cannot be developed above ground?

The challenge is to do it together. In the past, we have often done this exercise above ground! The worst thing was “Montpellier Unlimited” (territorial brand launched in 2012 by Jean-Pierre Moure, then president of Montpellier Agglomération, Editor’s note): a fiasco! It was the great era of brand strategies… Today, we talk to each other, I listen to companies. I want co-production arrangements, which Georges Frêche did not necessarily do in his time. Since when have we not collectively asked ourselves the question of where we want to go? We entrusted a mission to E&Y (which will draw up the economic portrait of the territory on Friday, Editor’s note) and these Conferences are the continuation of a consultation process launched several months ago with all economic players, consular offices and banks. This meeting is a time for dialogue, for comparing points of view to say what economic development we want, what we are available for, where we put our resources and where we will not go… I leave the gigafactory at Patrice Vergriete in Dunkirk (mayor, president of the Urban Community, and Minister of Housing since July 20, 2023, Editor’s note ) and I take the cutting-edge industry in biotherapies for example… Friday, in the conclusions of the Conference, I will say our first intentions. We are not starting from zero but we must identify where our strengths and weaknesses are and intensify our efforts.

Exactly, what are the weaknesses of the Montpellier region today?

The first weakness is that many companies are forced to look for skills elsewhere even though we have an exceptional training network. This is particularly the case for Urbasolar, whose managers tell me that they are not recruiting in Montpellier. This is a major subject… The France Travail project (new name of Pôle Emploi, assigned as part of the bill for full employment and which aims to better coordinate the network of public employment service actors, Editor’s note) is very promising and I am asking to chair it with Pôle Emploi… There is also a question of visibility: we need a strategy so that seen, from Brussels or Oslo, we see what our territory is on the economic plan. And thus attract major international investors.

What intentions could concretely emerge from these Conferences?

On renewable energies, we need a sector strategy, create a cluster. On the ICCs, we are missing the sector structuring stage. And we feel that we would have a card to play in sport with Vogo… Furthermore, we are very good at incubating and launching businesses but we need to add a stage to the rocket: the BIC will see its mission evolve to support the growth of businesses, with additional resources for the economic development department… Finally, I hope that the Metropolis will commit to the system of repayable advances for businesses, as the Occitanie Region already does. Until now, the Metropolis had refused to take a position on the subject. This will be a real structuring factor.

Who are the speakers at the Economic Conference?

Among the speakers expected during the morning of Friday, November 17:

  • Emmanuel de la Masselièreurban planner
  • Jacques Godronpresident of the Institute of Advanced Studies of Metropolises, specialist in attractiveness
  • Laura Carmouze, Deputy director of the Aix-Marseille Attractiveness Chair
  • Hugo Alvarez, director of foresight at Atout France
  • Matthias Navarro, co-founder and CEO of Redman, local representative of the Impact France Movement.