Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: In particular, government incentives for sustainable upgrades are driving strong demand.

The building and construction sector in France is booming, with excellent opportunities due to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games as well as the push to save energy through a government initiative to help finance renovation of old houses and heating equipment following the GRENELLE agreement of 2007.

The French building and construction sector represents €170 billion in annual turnover (up 21% from 2018) and has about 536,000 companies (up 36% from 2018), with no less than 1.5 million workers.

The sector tends to be broken down into three major segments: specialized building, construction and real estate development, and civil engineering and public works.

The main opportunities for U.S. companies lie in the specialized construction market, as this is mainly where the small and midsize enterprises are, and is easier to penetrate. Civil engineering and public works entail tendering, and establishing of a French company—or a partnership with a French company—is imperative. The same goes for the real estate development market, which is dominated by major players such as Bouygues and others.

The specialized building construction market mainly deals with:

  • Structural work: masonry, building construction, carpentry, roofing work, zinc work, assembly work, etc.
  • Internal work: equipment, electrical installation, painting and other finishes

This market brings together a heterogeneous clientele ranging from construction companies, private individuals and joint ownership unions to all other private or public tenders (such as the construction of public housing for the state, hospitals, schools, gymnasiums etc.). It is one of the most accessible markets for independent artisans due to the fact that so many individuals need help with construction or renovation, and therefore new U.S. products or services have an easier time entering this market, where needs are high.

The main reason for the growth of the building sector is due to the renovation market, and especially energy-saving measures.

The French government has launched generous incentives for homeowners to upgrade their insulation and renovate properties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via the zero-rate eco-loan, tax credit, energy credit and reduced value added tax rate. Qualified renovation categories include outside wall insulation, inside wall and roof insulation, installing new energy-saving windows and glass, and new efficient and environmentally friendly heating systems. This government funding program will continue at least through the end of this year.

The Paris Olympic Games set for 2024 have brought another promising opportunity for U.S. companies to get involved at all levels by selling construction materials, equipment and services. The €6.8 billion athletes’ village is the first three-year project to be undertaken for 15,000 athletes on a site of 126 acres located just north of the Paris city center. Once the Olympics conclude, the village will be used as a residence complex. Plans call for an Olympic-size pool, a new train station and a high-voltage electrical plant, as well as renovation of the Seine and Saint Denis canal borders to access the site.