French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted the program to re-industrial France on Friday.
Global battery manufacturers are turning a region in the north of France that was once a barren land into a 21st-century manufacturing hub and a key European source of new energy technology.
Taiwanese battery maker Prologium became the latest group on Friday to announce a plant in the Hauts de France region, where many struggling towns have spent decades in the doldrums following the crash. collapse of the local steel and mining industry.
The €5.2 billion ($5.7 billion) investment in the port of Dunkirk follows similar moves from rival energy battery makers in the region, which borders Belgium and has connectivity. good road as well as port.
European manufacturer ACC—a joint venture between Stellantis, TotalEnergies and Mercedes—selected the town of Billy-Berclau for its factory, while Chinese-Japanese group Envision chose Douai, about 30 miles from the Lille regional center. kilometers (20 miles) south .
France-based Verkor also chose Dunkirk, a deep-sea port famous as the site of the chaotic Allied retreat during the early stages of World War II.
“It is fair to say that there is a growing ecosystem for batteries in the north of France,” said vice president of international development at Prologium in a statement about the new plant on Friday.
News of the investment sent French President Emmanuel Macron to Dunkirk on Friday, giving him an opportunity to highlight his ambitions to re-industrial France after decades of shifting jobs to China and other countries. lower costs.
The 45-year-old former investment banker, pro-business, has cut taxes, relaxed labor laws and introduced investment incentives since taking power in 2017 to cut unemployment and attract companies.
"I am proud to say here, in a job market that has known the closure of factories for decades, that we are in the process of reopening them, to industrialize," Macron said during a visit. an aluminum factory.
He also announced a new €1.5 billion investment in Dunkirk from the French nuclear group Orano and the Chinese company XTC to produce cathode components used in lithium batteries.
Over the past 40 years, France has lost 50,000 industrial jobs on average each year, according to Mr Macron's office.
Cluster of cars
The Hauts de France area was once one of the industrial centers of France, supplying textiles, coal, steel and later vehicles as automobile production flourished in the middle of the last century.
According to local investment agency Nord France Invest, despite a series of factory closures, the latter industry survived, with the region being the largest source of vehicles in France today.
It is home to seven car manufacturing sites including Toyota, Renault and Stellantis as well as a dense network of component suppliers—a major reason battery manufacturers want to locate themselves nearby.
The head of the region, Xavier Bertrand, is quoted by Le Monde newspaper as saying: "It's a strategy to get all areas." "We're in a transitional decade."
The investments could be a boon for the aspiring conservative politician, a failed Republican presidential candidate last year, who is still said to be harboring ambitions of winning top political office. top of the country.
Macron is also from the Hauts de France, born in Amiens. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen was elected to parliament twice from a local constituency in the former mining town of Henin-Beaumont.
Her National Rally Party was influential throughout the region, drawing support from mostly white, working-class voters who had suffered the consequences of the decline. French industry since the 1980s.
Unemployment in the region has plummeted in recent years, hitting 8.7% in the final quarter of 2022.
This is still higher than the 7.0 percent mainland average.
It has long been the region with the highest poverty rate in mainland France, with 18 percent of the population classified as below the poverty line, according to 2018 figures from the statistical agency INSEE.