France’s RhÙne-Alpes region has opened its first U.S. economic development office in Atlanta so that it can become actively involved in the city’s growth and have easy access to the rest of the country, Xavier Lalande, the branch manager, told GlobalFax during an interview in his Buckhead office.

      Mr. Lalande said that the Atlanta office of ERAI, the region’s development agency, was the 10th that RhÙne-Alpes has established in the world.  The others are in Montreal, where it has maintained its North American headquarters since 1990, Belgium, Brazil, China, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan and Spain.

      Atlanta was selected primarily because of the opportunities for its small- to medium-sized companies to develop relationships with new and growing companies here, he said. He added that the office also was somewhat of an experiment to determine the benefits of having a branch in the U.S. 

 “We want to be in a growing city that provides us great access to the rest of the U.S. and that allows us to work closely with our North American headquarters in Montreal,” Mr. Lalande said.

      Located in the southeast of France and at the crossroads of northern and southern Europe, RhÙne-Alpes plays an important role as a transportation center, similar to that of Atlanta, he added.  And its strength in a wide range of economic sectors provides many opportunities for local firms to develop partnerships and other relations.  Its gross domestic product is the second largest of France’s 22 regions.

While RhÙne-Alpes’ home grown multinationals such as the chemicals giant RhÙne-Poulenc can take care of their own development, Mr. Leland said that his office will focus on the needs of smaller firms. He added that U.S. companies seeking information about markets in the European Union (EU) or about subcontractors in France should call his office.

     To reach Mr. Lalande send an E-mail to or call (404) 848-7705; fax, (404) 848-7704. The agency’s Web site may be found at