Montreal: Gateway City for French Companies in North America

Do you know what video game giant Ubisoft, rail transportation specialist Alstom, and cosmetics world leader L’Oréal have in common? Like the 60,000 French expatriates in Quebec, these large French companies have also taken up residence in this French-speaking province of Canada. And they are not the only ones. There are currently more than 400 French companies of all sizes and of various fields (agrifood, aeronautics, energy, pharmacy …) in Montreal.

As you can imagine, one of their motivations lies in linguistic affinities. In addition, numerous procedures and organizations have been set up to welcome, guide, and support French companies. To name a few, there are the French Chamber of Commerce in Canada (CCI Française au Canada), Business France Canada and the CDEFQ (Cercle des directeurs des entreprises franco-québécoises).

Another reason is that French companies — especially web agencies — are attracted to the Belle Province because of its bilingual workforce and its geographical proximity to the United States. This advantage allows French companies to expand their business in the coveted US market. In other words, Quebec is a land of opportunities for large organizations, small and medium enterprises and industries, and startups alike. We will explore the details of this phenomenon in this article.

Quebec, a place of welcome

More and more French entrepreneurs are deciding to settle in Quebec. Why? Because the possibilities are endless. In fact, great efforts are made to attract qualified resources, capital, and foreign investment.

Economic stability is Quebec’s biggest asset

Despite the economic crisis of 2008, Quebec has maintained its competitive advantages. These include favorable taxation, a tax rate of 29.9%, and lower wage costs than in France. And there is always the possibility of receiving tax credits for research and development.

What’s more, the formal procedures for creating a company are quick and affordable. Registration costs range from $34 to $320 in Canadian dollars — approximately 23 to 217 euros — depending which legal formalities apply. More advantages include such considerations as reasonable office rents, good quality of life, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

Montreal, a booming “smart and digital city”

Considered by many as the new Silicon Valley, Montreal stands out prominently on the international stage for its talents in web marketing and digital technologies (its Quartier de l’Innovation, founded in 2009, has the largest concentration of information and multimedia technologies companies in Canada). Overall, the fields of new information and communication technologies (NICT) and innovation are sectors of excellence in Quebec.

Montreal opens its doors to French startups

Last year, several companies in Montpellier accepted the invitation from Startups Interaction to discover Montreal’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. And this year, the association extends the invitation again, from September 30 to October 5, 2017.

As well, the Bleu Blanc Tech network will contribute to the occasion by offering French entrepreneurs the opportunity to explore the Quebec market. And French company OVH, specializing in cloud and internet infrastructures and which opened a subsidiary in Montréal in 2013, is putting in place policy for the welcome and support of startups.

Clearly, in the Belle Province, every effort is being made to strengthen ties with France, particularly the region of Aquitaine, with which a cooperation agreement was signed in 2000, and the city of Bordeaux, which has been twinned with the Canadian province since 1962.

Will Macron’s election affect economic trade between France and Quebec?

Emmanuel Macron has always been interested in Franco-Quebec trade

When he was Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs, Emmanuel Macron had discussions on trade with Premier Philippe Couillard at the time of his first official visit in 2015. During their meeting, the current French president insisted on the need to focus on concrete projects. The kind of projects discussed mainly concerned three axes: digital industries (Macron at the time was planning to award the “French Tech Hub” and did so in 2016), the environment, and cross-investment.

As Lawrence Cannon, the former French ambassador to France, said in an interview published in Ma Presse on May 16, 2017, Emmanuel Macron was the only candidate to openly support free-trade between Canada and the European Union during his presidential campaign. And although he has just established a commission to review the Global Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), nothing says that the French president will not strengthen the foundations of the economic relationship between the two countries …

In short, the increasingly visible and sustained rapprochement between France and Quebec offers a more than favourable location for web agencies in Montreal.

Article written by: Nicolas Finet

Nicolas Finet is a young entrepreneur who is passionate about new technologies, growth hacking, and web marketing. He created his Sortlist business in 2014 with 3 associates after graduating from Solvay Brussels School with a degree in management engineering.

Sortlist is a web platform that connects companies with the digital marketing agencies that best meet their needs based on specific criteria (budget, type of service, location, etc.)

Follow Nicolas on Twitter: @nifinet