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How Les Herbiers have the lowest unemployment rate in France

Ouvrard is looking for plumbers, electricians, etc. but galley to fill the positions. – D.P. / 20 minutes

"I confess that my colleagues look at me with sympathy and a little jealousy …" Laurent Soullard, director of the Pôle Emploi des Herbiers agency, proudly develops the small economic miracle of the Northeastern Vendée basin. This town of 16,500 inhabitants halfway between Nantes and Angers, popularized last year by the
cross-country course of his football club, holds the record of the lowest unemployment rate. In September 2018 (last survey of INSEE), it amounted to 4.5%, against 9% nationally.

Industry flagships, such as Jeanneau (luxury pleasure boats), K-Line (aluminum windows), La Boulangère (Viennese pastry), and dozens of flourishing SMEs are installed on its territory. A dynamism against the current of most medium-sized cities which, they, suffer from the competition of the metropolises, as reveals the first Barometer of the territories realized for
the association Villes de France.

Extract from the barometer of the territories for the association Villes de France.
Extract from the barometer of the territories for the association Villes de France. – Cities of France

"The Vendeans have always managed on their own"

Véronique Besse, mayor MPF des Herbiers, offers a historical explanation. "The Vendeans, and especially those of the hedgerow, have always fought and always managed on their own. Whatever the size of the company, its leader does not expect anything from Paris or the government, he is even suspicious. Many companies go from father to son. "And if it does not stay in the family, it's a framework that takes it back …" says Eric Grignon, president of
the association Les Herbiers companies, which includes 136 companies. Here, no foreign investment fund took power. "95% of head offices are in Vendée," says the mayor.

"There is a real capacity of elected officials to support the development of the industry, insists Laurent Soullard. With the opening up of roads and the arrival of fiber optics, vital for businesses. The city has also created a subdivision (La Pépinière, 50 low-cost housing units) to allow young people to live close to their work. Another subdivision project, where companies can themselves reserve homes for their future employees, is also under study.

"Mutual respect and very little social conflict"

"Mutual aid between companies" in this territory is also not a view of the mind, according to Eric Grignon. "Even competitors, they will help each other …" Emulation, solidarity and social cohesion. "Entrepreneurs and employees are very rooted, it's a real strength for economic development," continues Véronique Besse. These are people who have been on the same school benches, who rub shoulders at weekends, there is a mutual respect and very few social conflicts. Here, we do not send registered letters or emails, we speak, it advances faster. "

An employee of the K-Line plant at Les Herbiers.
An employee of the K-Line plant at Les Herbiers. – F.Perry / AFP

Result: job offers abound. Last March, at the local job fair, 1,000 positions were vacant. "Not all on permanent contracts," says the head of Pôle emploi. Still today a few hundred jobs are still available. Because this is the ransom of success, companies are struggling to find candidates for certain positions. "Many companies have double-digit growth each year," acknowledges Eric Grignon, head of Le Roy Logistique, whose turnover has risen from 20 million euros to 31 million euros in six years. But, we lack staff, which can slow down some or cause to refuse business. "

"Here at Les Herbiers, it's the candidate who has the choice"

"There is a concern for skills for certain offers such as plumbers, electricians, etc. », Admits a recruiting officer from a company in Herbret. It's the world upside down at Les Herbiers: "It's the candidate who has the choice," notes Laurent Soullard. The lower the unemployment rate, the fewer registered and available applicants and the fewer skills available. It's easy to understand why the community includes 17 temporary agencies, without a doubt a national record in a city of this size.

Can so-called low wages explain all these unfilled jobs? Elected representatives and economic actors defend themselves by invoking "a quality of life not expensive", "13th or 14th month in some companies", "large bonuses of incentives or bonuses in others". "We must really be aware that we live in a privileged environment," concludes the head of the employment center.


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