In the 1980s, the mayor (PS) Georges Frêche played the territorial marketing card before everyone else by launching a slogan that would stay in people’s minds for a long time: “Montpellier the gifted”. It was the great era of the city’s development, both urbanistically and economically. More than forty years later, this slogan has remained in local memories but has abandoned usage. In the meantime, the city lost the status of regional capital seven years ago with the merger of the regions. Today, mid-term, the mayor (PS) Michaël Delafosse, disciple of Georges Frêche, also president of what has become a metropolis of nearly 500,000 inhabitants, wants to project the economic destiny of the Languedoc capital into the future.
This is why Michaël Delafosse invited the entire economic ecosystem this November 17 for the Economic Conference, with the ambition of creating a roadmap that will set the course for 2030-2040. Some 600 people were gathered. But before the ambitions, the state of affairs, the method and external views.
“By boosting the endogenous, we boost the exogenous”
A mission was entrusted to the EY firm: to carry out a diagnosis of the territory (see box).
“Even if the BIC has supported 820 companies since 1987 for 94.6 million euros raised, which is rare in France and even in Europe, the Metropolis must better support the scaling up of innovation players, underlines Marc Lhermitte, senior partner at EY. It’s a French evil but the gifted must be exemplary! (…) The ecological transition is a regulatory and social imperative. The Metropolis has already initiated ambitious public policies on mobility and regional planning with free public transport (which will be completed for all residents of the Metropolis from December 21, Editor’s note) and with a 25% reduction in land consumption. And this question is the business of the large territory. »
Jacques Godron is the president of the Institut des Hautes Etudes des Métropoles, and a specialist in attractiveness. He was invited to speak on “The challenges and opportunities of strategic sectors”.
“ Why does a company choose one territory over another? he asks. To attract, you have to be “the territory of…”. What is Montpellier the territory of? Companies go where they are sure to find “fuel”: training, leading companies, new technologies, secondary companies, networks, events, services. By doping the endogenous, we dope the exogenous. »
In addition to businesses, a territory must also attract inhabitants, and therefore be equipped “ an airport, a business district, research and higher education, luxury shops, leisure and relaxation areas, business tourism, etc. “.
Should we focus on one sector or several? Unless you are short-sighted, the territory should not put all its eggs in one basket, but Jacques Godron adds a nuance: “ Several sectors, yes, but not sectors which follow one another, sectors which are intelligently investigated so that if one declines, we anticipate to push the next one.”
And to recommend, concerning the role of the Metropolis in this approach: “ It must support new businesses, boost training, networks and events, but also anticipate what comes next and help pivot people from one sector to another.”
“Do we still need to grow and attract in mainland France, is this compatible with a viable transition model? », asks the room…
“The ‘big is beautiful’ model is a long-outdated model, answers Laura Carmouze, deputy director of the Aix-Marseille Attractiveness Chair. No, we don’t need to gain weight. Gain weight for what? We can instead talk about “coopetition”, which combines cooperation and competition because we don’t all know how to do everything. »
Jacques Godron adds: “ You don’t necessarily have to get bigger but align all the assets within a sector. More and more metropolises are hitting the wall of one million inhabitants: they don’t want to grow too much because it becomes unlivable. So the question is not to be huge but to be aligned, positioned, visible and therefore attractive.”
From the intervention of the town planner Emmanuel de la Masselière, we will especially remember the notion of territorial symbiosis: “ I think that economic development depends less on tangible factors – geographical location, infrastructure, equipment – than on third factors such as human resources, collective mentalities, the mental structures of a territory, the capacity to undertake, the audacity. The ability to work together. I am therefore talking about territorial symbiosis: it is about the cooperation of companies with the territory, that is to say being “business friendly”. But cooperation must not stop halfway: the company must become an intrinsic part of the territory. This implies two mental breaks: the company must consider the territory not as a single partner but as an asset on its balance sheet, and the communities must consider that they are not the sole custodians of the strategy but must co-construct it. The mayor-president will lose his majesty, but he will become responsible for the development of the territory, the unifier of projects. »
“Valley of Death”, trade, repayable advances
In an interview given to The gallery the day before this Economic Conference, Michaël Delafosse had drawn up some ideas which will compose the economic roadmap that the Metropolis wants to write.
“ We are not starting from nowhere, we have already done a lot of things, but we cannot rest on our achievements, he recalled during the Economic Conference. Montpellier fought hard and is today one of the most attractive metropolises. But I want to see beyond the mandate and draw a perspective for the territory by 2030-2040. We are co-building and having a sector strategy is essential to say what economic development we want for the territory. »
The sectors are for the most part already identified: global health (one health), renewable energies, cultural and creative industries (ICC), digital, wine and sport. As for the options, the elected official first mentions the strengthening of the training ecosystem, which is already substantial but which is not enough to train the skills necessary for companies today: “ This is a weakness of the territory: we have a very good training system and companies but we often recruit elsewhere. The Metropolis wishes to play a role within France Travail for a more fruitful dialogue with training stakeholders.”
Another avenue: lowering the threshold of innovation “ so that everyone who wishes can become an entrepreneur “. But also to avoid the traps of hyper-metropolisation and rebalance the territory: “ Not everything can happen in Montpellier, let’s make ZAN an opportunity to set up businesses in vulnerable areas, the Metropolis must be able to say where and what project in order to meet the challenge of territorial divide”assures the elected official who recalls that it will be a mission of the economic development and transitions agency that he just created on November 8involving 200 municipalities in the process.
“The territory is capable of supporting the creation of businesses but the other fundamental challenge is to support the growth of businesses, he also sketches. The city’s economic development department will work to do this and thus enable businesses to overcome “the valley of death”. »
The president of the Metropolis announces that the community is committed, as the Occitanie Region already does, to the system of repayable advances for businesses, “ a complete paradigm break,” he emphasizes.
In terms of shops, the Metropolis will adopt a commercial urban development plan (SDUC), “ and we are going to create a trade office to look for brands,” he adds. “ In connection with the CCI”, he specifies, since in fact, the consular chamber is already working on this mission, even organizing in Montpellier, each year, a seduction operation called “Visio commerce”…
“The children of La Surdouée are here”
“The Metropolis must be the first supporter of businesses, of those who innovate and create, proclaims Michaël Delafosse. The children of La Surdouée are here and abroad, and we are going to create a network of ambassadors and work on the Montpellier diaspora. We have experienced three successive crises which require us to rethink value chains. In crises, there are two postures: those who complain and those who think that these are opportunities to draw perspectives… I change the method: I am the conductor but we must play collectively, show a united face, breaking silo effects. »
The territorial economic development roadmap will be deliberated on December 19 in the Metropolitan Council, with an implementation timetable.
“Public action means saying and doing,” concludes the elected official.
What territorial diagnosis?
A mission was entrusted to the EY firm: to carry out a diagnosis of the territory. Marc Lhermitte, senior partner at EY, summarized the essentials:
- Economy: 69% of entrepreneurs are optimistic about the future (a figure however decreasing over the months) and 81% of employers have fewer than 9 employees
- Demography: the metropolis of Montpellier is experiencing the most dynamic demographic growth of French metropolises: + 8.7% between 2018 and 2023 (+ 6.2% in Toulouse, + 0.4% in Grenoble). Its unemployment rate in the 2nd quarter of 2023 was 9.3% (7.2% in Toulouse, 6% in Grenoble).
- Innovation: the Metropolis has chosen six strategic sectors: health, ICC, digital, renewable energies, agri-agro, wine.