Buying a business in FranceWe talked to Christine LaCroix, Project Manager of UCCIMAC, to find out how the organisation can assist expats looking to take-over a business in the Massif-Central.

What is UCCIMAC?
UCCIMAC stands for Union Chamber of Commerce in Massif-Central; it is a public organisation which looks after 26 chambers of commerce across six regions of France – Auvergne, Burgundy, Limousin, Rhône-Alpes, Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées. Established in 1975, its main role today is to encourage exchange between the decision-makers of the Massif Central and entrepreneurs, offering ongoing support to both parties. Their ultimate goal is to develop the economy in the area by assisting entrepreneurs to maintain and create businesses.

This focus on assisting clients with business development and acquisition started just 18 months ago. This is because an increasing number of business owners in the area are entering retirement age and, therefore, more and more businesses are coming onto the market. UCCIMAC foresee a significant number of businesses changing hands in the next five to 15 years.

We promote a number of businesses for sale on our website, under three main sectors: Tourism which includes hotels, campsites and holiday villages; Commerce and Services which consists of businesses such as restaurant and retail shops; and Industry which covers various sectors such as clothes manufacturing, engineering, mechanics and the food industry.

How do you help expats?
UCCIMAC offer a free service to help people who want to move to the Massif Central to buy an existing business. We are the first, one-stop entry point for entrepreneurs and investors. If an expat is interested in purchasing a particular business, we put them in contact with the relevant chamber of commerce and can request specific information about that business for them, including business reports outlining company shareholders, commercial leases and turnover. We also provide information on the local economy.

We can offer advice to people looking to create a new business in the Massif-Central; however our priority is to assist those purchasing existing businesses in the area.

Our ongoing support includes business training and French speaking courses which take place regularly at different chamber of commerces. We can help with legal and financial issues and put you in contact with lawyers, banks and accountants in the area.

Do you have any particular advice for an expat looking to run a business in the Massif-Central?
Start by visiting the local chamber of commerce, they will be able to advise you on a range of matters, from what and where to buy, to employing staff and developing your business.

I would also say that to be successful in French business it is crucial to have a good grasp of the French language. Many local people do not speak English and it is likely that the majority of your employees will not.

Why is the Massif Central a good place to live and run a business?
The quality of life is good in this beautiful area with the right balance between work and life. The Massif Central has an excellent skilled workforce in a variety of industries. The infrastructure, transport and communication links are excellent; the A75 motorway runs through the Massif Central and Paris can be reached in three hours. There are also a number of low-cost flights to the UK.

Do you have any events in the UK planned?
We are planning to organise some breakfast meetings in London in the latter part of 2010. This is to present our objectives, contacts and available businesses. Information about this will be posted on our website where you can also find information about all our up-and-coming events.

What kinds of businesses are available now?
In the industry sector we have a landscape gardening business for sale, joinery and furniture maker in Limousin, removals company in the Rhône-Alpes and a clothing company in Auvergne.

Some of the tourism businesses include a 12 bedroom hotel in a village called Pompadour (between Limoges and Brive). It’s a good business for a couple. There is also a Chambres d’Hotes located in St Agrève, Ardèche, as well as a restaurant there too. At present, there are hotels and restaurants available all over the Massif-Central.

Meanwhile, the commercial businesses for sale include a newsagents, supermarket, petrol station, antiques shop and bakery.

Christine LaCroix spoke to Nina Richards

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