As an American living in the Rhône-Alpes region since 2007 (Lyon and Grenoble), I have met many fellow American expats thanks to the networking events organized by the American Chamber of Commerce, Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne Chapter, (referred to in this article as AmCham RA).
It is part of the national AmCham network based in Paris (which was founded in 1894 by eleven American businessmen) with chapters in Alsace-Lorraine (based in Strasbourg), France Nord (Lille), Midi-Pyrénées (Toulouse) and Côte d’Azur (Monaco and Sophia Antipolis). Each chapter is a non-profit Association 1901 with its own network, events and initiatives, although they often share ideas and application for membership (both individual and corporate) goes through Paris.
The current President of AmCham RA, Brad Stock, is a serial entrepreneur himself, with over 20 years of experience in the IT, teaching and translation industries. Before he arrived in Lyon, he was Chairman of AmCham Strasbourg from 2002 to 2006. Since he took the reins in Lyon in 2007, activity has dramatically increased and membership has expanded by 300% to over 40 corporations today and growing.
So what exactly does AmCham RA do?
Like every chapter, it first and foremost represents US companies with operations in the region, lobbying the French and US governments on their behalf for favorable business policies and legislation. The Rhône-Alpes is a quite an attractive region for foreign investment, including over 500 American companies. In addition, the region’s GDP is #5 in Europe and is home to innovative technology clusters and hubs in Lyon but also in cities like Grenoble, Annecy and Saint Etienne.
AmCham RA is also a business networking hub, serving as a facilitator of transatlantic business relations in various industries (such as Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, Marketing, IT, Consumer Products, Pharmaceutical). Regional members include UPS, Genzyme, Harding Marketing, KPMG, FedEx, Hilton, Caterpillar and Becton Dickinson, to name a few.
As part of the networking, AmCham organizes events, from conferences and seminars to cocktails and wine tastings in order to provide an interesting forum for discussion. Conferences have included experts in various fields speaking on issues such as trade, investment, education, entrepreneurship and innovation. Often events are organized with partners such as the World Trade Center (WTC), Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), universities, ERAI (the Invest in Rhône-Alpes Agency), AEPI (the Invest in Isère-Grenoble Agency) and the US Consulate in Lyon.
In addition, AmCham RA has been innovative in developing an Education Program conducted in English for life-long learning and business education by experts in topics such as business English, Law, Marketing, Intercultural Management, Taxation, Entrepreneurship, Logistics, HR and other areas. AmCham RA’s signature event is ChamMasters, a simulation of an international conference to help professionals optimize their impact when speaking in public in English; it brings together over 20 professionals once a month at the Hilton Lyon for an evening of public speaking training over cocktails and dinner, where presenters receive feedback from 2 experts and the other attendees after their talks.
Check the calendar of events for the most recent updates.