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June 2016

Centennial companies in northern France

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100 years and more! They’ve survived wars and turmoil. What’s their secret? How have these centennial companies in northern France persevered over time and remained relevant to the economic discourse?


Stronger than the philosopher’s stone: resilience

A dream for some and a reality for others. How do they do it?

In fact, there is no secret. “They’ve all experienced failure. This is, I think, the common thread. They’ve learned lessons from their disappointments and been able to evolve. It’s what makes them strong,” notes Nicolas Sekkaki, President of IBM France.

The ability to overcome economic challenges and to continually reinvent themselves shows us that the men and woman within these centennial companies are key to their success.


Centennial companies, visionary entreprises

“Growing older is like climbing a mountain. The higher you climb, the more strength you need, but the further you see,” said the famed director Ingmar Bergman.

There is more to surviving challenges than just experience. Vision is another ingredient necessary to success.

  • Bravery: “Being brave enough to choose the right path and to reinvent oneself,” are also factors in business longevity says Gilles Bernard, President of the Briqueteries du Nord.
  • New technologies: “Digital technologies make things easier for our clients and technological solutions also free up staff time,” points out Guillaume Fremaux, President of Haghebaert & Fremaux.
  • Networks: “We all work together, from an economic, political and educational perspective.” It’s all of us working together that helps us prepare for the future,” affirms Philippe Hourdain, President of CCI Grand Lille.


Centennial companies in the Lille region

Known for a high concentration of family-run businesses, the Lille region can be proud of being home to business founded in the area who are still headquartered here. “We estimate that there are 100 centennial companies that fit our eligibility criteria—decision makers located in the region, executive vision, etc.,” states Hélène Klima. She’s in charge of Lille Place Tertiaire’s centennial project and leader of the Nord – Pas de Calais Centennial Business Club. Members include Crédit du Nord, Cuvelier & Fauvarque, Lefranc, Méo Fichaux, Mulliez-Richebé, Winckelmans and many others.


Economic power

These companies were founded in northern France and are still active in the region. They are an important part of the regional economy and plan to continue representing the vanguard. 38 companies are members of the Nord – Pas de Calais Centennial Business Club. Together, they have:

  • A total of € 1,250 million in sales
  • 5,300+ employees within the region
  • Hired more than 200 new employees in 2015
  • In addition, more than one-third of the companies in the Centennial Business Club export their products.

The Centennial Business Club enables these companies, many of which are family run, to share their experiences, highlight key factors in their success and prepare for the future. Considering their ability to bring together tradition and innovation, as noted by Raouti Chehih, the Managing Director of EuraTechnologies: “If centennial companies know how to integrate technology and innovation into their business activity, they will become bicentennial!”


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