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Special feature

Alsace, attractive for executives

In terms of attractiveness for young executives and young graduates, Alsace occupies the 7th position among French regions. This is a good position showing its ability to integrate talented people from outside.

According to a survey by APEC (Executive Employment Agency) – the latest survey dated March 2012 – Alsace is one of the top 10 most popular French regions for young graduates and young executives: regions that they consider are the most attractive in terms of quality of life and economic vitality. Alsace occupies the 7th position in the ranking behind the regions of Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), Midi-Pyrénées and Aquitaine, on a par with Brittany and Languedoc-Roussillon and a short distance ahead of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

Of course, Alsace has no shortage of reasons for being an attractive, convincing destination for executives owing to its beautiful countryside, its smooth wines, its varied and delicious food, its lifestyle, a number of cultural gems (such as Strasbourg cathedral and the Issenheim altarpiece, and also Strasbourg Opera and National Theatre, ST-ART, the contemporary art exhibition which is gaining popularity, etc.), an undeniable industrial past and a few gems in the biotech sector. And that’s not all…

“Proximity to Germany and Switzerland”

According to Guy Tonnelier, originally from the Pays de la Loire region and Chairman of Initiative Strasbourg, which supports people setting up or taking over businesses, Alsace has a number of assets for impressing executives wanting to come and settle between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine: “A standard of living which positions it among the top French regions, a rich cultural heritage, as well as closeness to Germany and Switzerland, which is rather exotic if you come from Brittany or Auvergne and makes you want to know what is happening the other side.” Guy Tonnelier also observed that German executives are really attracted to Alsace: “For them, coming to work here is all the more tempting because they know that they will not be bothered by linguistic issues. They are also aware that, due to the large number of German firms, they will feel at home in the Alsatian economy because they look upon it as an economic entity in its own right.”

Young foreigners, Ambassadors for Alsace

For Antoine Latham, however, head of the business news department at the Dernières Nouvelle d’Alsace newspaper who knows its regional economy like the back of his hand, Alsace’s real assets perhaps need to be sought elsewhere: “Alsace is never as attractive as when it opens up to others. Alsace is not just a place of tradition and rural life but it also has urban districts, a French university receiving the most foreign students, etc. Alsace is a region of change and it is never as strong as when it integrates others.

In this respect, let us mention a few flagship initiatives : the association des Jeunes Ambassadeurs d’Alsace (Association of Young Ambassadors for Alsace). It now has over 100 foreign students from some fifty different countries being welcomed by as many buddies from the business world who show them Alsace with its winstubs (wine bars), its high-quality cultural activities, industrial firms and ambitious start-up companies. The aim is to turn all these students into enthusiastic “ambassadors” for Alsace, once they have returned home or elsewhere in positions of responsibility.

A former student at INSA (Institut National des Sciences Appliquées – National Institute of Applied Sciences) and originally from Togo, Grégoire explains: “Now an Alsatian at heart, I returned to Togo three months ago and I am missing Strasbourg already. I have very good memories of Strasbourg in particular and of Alsace in general. This is why I am really hoping to go back either on business or for a holiday…”

Jeunes Ambassadeurs d'Alsace

EM Strasbourg ©Cyril Hanebna - Citeasen

Alumni network

At another level, in 2012 the University of Strasbourg was one of the first French universities to get back in touch with its former students by setting up an Alumni network. The Strasbourg network so far has 5,000 people registered and hopes to reach 40,000 by 2017. This time, the idea is rather to help both young and mature graduates to find work and to fulfil their ambition for career development, etc., and maybe in Alsace. And of course, to promote the excellence of the University of Strasbourg around the world. Eventually, this is bound to have a positive effect on the recruitment of executives in Alsace.

Besides, Antoine Latham concludes, it may well be that “Alsace’s talent is also cultivated in its humanist tradition. At the University of Strasbourg, of which the Senior Vice-President is a theologian, this is as important as pharmacy. We should say loud and clear that we have people here who are very good at languages, humanities and canon law. This is a really distinguishing feature.” And this is also perhaps where the integrating strength of Alsace lies.