Atlanta high-tech companies having difficulty finding or keeping qualified engineers here should consider setting up operations, acquiring firms or joint venturing in France, representatives of the Invest in France Agency told GlobalFax last week.

“In many ways the economies of the U.S. and France have reverse images,” Bernard Giraud, Invest in France’s New York-based executive director for North America, said in an interview downtown.

While the U.S. now has a strong economy, low unemployment, many high-tech companies and not enough engineers, France’s economy is less dynamic, and has high unemployment, fewer high-tech companies and an oversupply of engineers.

France’s educational system has been graduating qualified engineers for years, he said, but it is only recently that U.S. firms have realized the extent of cost savings they can achieve by setting up operations there.  He cited Motorola and Texas Instruments’ investments in France, which have benefited from the relative cheaper costs of hiring engineers there.

An engineer recently graduated from school in France can expect to earn about $2,000 a month as a starting salary, he said, adding that French workers are less mobile than their U.S. counterparts and, therefore, they are more likely to stay on with a single company.  Wages also are generally 30% less than in Germany, he added, which is France’s main competitor in Europe for engineering talent.

U.S. firms, he said, may be attracted by tax deductions they receive for research and development conducted in the country and some are beginning to collaborate with France’s numerous R&D centers.  And France is trying to broaden its capital markets, he added, with the development of a NASDAQ-type exchange so that companies which develop new products will be able to bring them to market.

Mr. Giraud was in Atlanta with Bruno TatÈossian, an associate director who is responsible for the Southern states, to visit with representatives of local companies which have expressed an interest in France. For more information, call Mr. TatÈossian at (404) 681-4539; fax: (404) 522-3039.  His e-mail address is