DB: Where are you?
CB: In New York City. I’m attending the French American Chamber of Commerce annual national meeting. Closer to home, I’m president of the French American Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Chapter, which is based in Southfield.
DB: What’s going on in New York?
CB: The mission of the chamber is to promote bilateral trade between France and the United States. Overall, there are 21 chapter cities and regions in which French companies operate, and the Michigan chapter, like the others, is a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization. We work to bring more French companies to America, along with working with American companies that are interested in business opportunities in France.
DB: How’s the annual meeting going?
CB: It’s very dynamic. We discuss economic opportunities, share best practices, and hold the election of officers. France is the fourth largest foreign investor (in Michigan) after Canada, Japan, and Germany — and France is the fastest-growing investor in Michigan. There’s a large spectrum of French companies. On one hand, there are very large organizations mostly dominated by Tier 1 suppliers, and there is a range of smaller companies.
DB: How do you help the members?
CB: We offer forums of discussions and networking around topics of business interests. For example, in February we visited Shinola (in Detroit) and met their marketing director to learn about their brand and their distribution channels. We assist French trade services as well as American chambers in conducting investment missions, we assist individuals in accomplishing their professional and career goals, and we offer scholarship grants to American students who want to further their education in France. The economic health of the region has been a major boost of late, especially the automotive industry, so there’s an incredible amount of activity going on. db