100 French executives kick off visit to create US links in Miami
By Zachary S. Fagenson
Hundreds of French business leaders tasked with reporting economic trends and information back to France and its companies along with 100 French executives looking to do business in the US are to meet in Miami Beach's Eden Roc hotel today (5/6) and tomorrow to discuss everything from how French companies can take advantage of the US stimulus package to the future of China in the global marketplace.
The two-day symposium is also to include addresses from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, French Ambassador to the US Pierre Vimont and former US Comptroller General and sitting President and CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation David M. Walker.
France's ministry of foreign trade, which is helping to organize the meeting, will also join with the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, the Beacon Council and others to present a daylong seminar on high-speed rail.
Yet the focus of the conference seems to be to get a ground-level snapshot of opportunities and challenges for French companies in the US and to help budding French firms gain a foothold here.
It's primarily a gathering of the Foreign Trade Advisors of France's North American Committee.
"There'll be about 200 of them coming from Canada and the US and a few others from Latin America and France," said Jean-Michel Caffin, managing partner of business intelligence firm AXIS Americas and chair of the Florida and Caribbean region for the trade advisors. "The advisors… are business people selected by the French government to serve on that board.
"We'll look at current events and future prospects in terms of foreign trade and general economic issues," he added.
The group last met here in 2007 and held its first Miami meeting in 2005.
As the advisors discuss the big issues affecting French business in the Americas, another group will jump into what the organization is calling the "North American Springboard" program.
"Joining us will be 100 CEOs of small and medium enterprises… from France directly," Mr. Caffin said.
The group is to spend about a week in the US, kicking off its trip in Miami with four workshops that appear a crash course on doing business in the US.
The program opens with a panel on establishing operations in US with Ernst & Young Executive Director Christophe Mangin and Fedex France Sales Director Pascal Mittaud Marouard.
The three remaining panels will examine how French companies can market and sell goods or services in North America, how to manage tasks like recruiting and accounting in North American operations and an overview of the Canadian market.
The French companies will also get to meet one-on-one with the French advisors before splitting up and jetting across the country to meet potential US partners.
And while many firms, like high-tech companies, may travel elsewhere in the US for meetings, Florida and Miami won't be left in the lurch.
"It's all industry specific," Mr. Caffin said. "In terms of aviation, anything to do with tourism or shipping, we have companies that are interested [in Florida].
"Our region has its attraction for a number of companies," he added. And we "already have a plan of action to grow business and are implementing it with government help."