Close your eyes for a few seconds to go back sixty years back. Imagine a small town of the Vendée deep without industrial tradition, without a bourgeoisie, without raw materials, without means of transport, away from any large city. And explain how, in a few decades, this territory devoid of the slightest advantage has become one of the French champions of full employment.

Welcome to the Seagrass beds, 16,000 inhabitants -30000 with the community of communes. In the vicinity of the town, not less than 30 areas have been created and are hosting a whole bunch of florets industry, including The Baker (pastry), CWF (children’s clothing), Concept alu (verandas and pool covers).

barely 5% of unemployment

While the sea and is located about 100 kilometers and that the only running water is a stream that is 3 meters wide and 1 meter deep, these devils have still invented Jeanneau, the king of the boat! The statistics reflect in their own way this incredible performance: the jobs are here the upper one-third to the French average, according to Insee. And the unemployment rate appears consistently as one of the lowest in the country, with only 5% (9.5% national average).

Nine times out of ten, the companies see the light of day at the initiative of a guy’s raw, courageous enough to take risks and talented enough to be successful. An artisan, a farmer or a tradesman who installs a small workshop in a barn or a hangar, which becomes over the years an SME, then a big company.

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The family Briand offers a good example. The great-grand-father was a blacksmith, like all his ancestors since 1745. In 1951, his son landed a big contract, and launches the industrial activity. In 1976 was born the society Briand construction métallique as the grandson, Roger, develops from 1981, before the great-grandson takes the reins in 2007. Today, Gil Briand led a group of 235 million in sales and 1100 employees, 300 of the Seagrass beds.

The historical origins of the dynamism of the vendée

Remains to elucidate the origins of this incredible entrepreneurial momentum. And, as incredible as it may seem, the main reason goes back to… 1793, the terrible year where the Vendee so-called “military” was ravaged by the infamous columns of hell. “I have crushed children under the feet of horses, massacred women who, at least for them, does enfanteront more brigands. I have all exterminated. The roads are sown with corpses. There are so many that, at several points, they do of the pyramids”, prides itself then the sinister general Westermann.

This violence leaves the country exhausted, devastated and depopulated. “According to a report addressed to the prefect in 1800, 249 of the 250 houses that had Seagrass beds have been burned, points to the historian Alain Gérard (1). But precisely: this tragedy has ingrained in the people of the Vendée a conviction. They understood that they had nothing to expect from Paris, that they had to fend for themselves.”

JEAN-PIERRE LIÉBOT, K-LINE. 1200 employees. “A sense of the value of work and a spirit of solidarity that is the foundation of our success.”


“We were condemned to succeed, in any way. When one has no resources, either to drop the arm, it mobilizes. This has given us a sense of the value of work and a spirit of solidarity, which are the basis of our success,” summarizes Jean-Pierre Liébot, director of the communication group of the same name. Word expert: his company, specializing in particular in the aluminium window frame with the trademark K-Line, team, towers of Defence, and was elevated to the rank of first local employer, with a… 1200 employees!

social Consensus

another key to the success of Seagrass beds, it is the social consensus. “For us, the industrialization came only after the Second world War, underlines Bruno Retailleau (LR), the former chair of the department. So we have not known the factories of the Nineteenth century and the proletarianization of the working class. Because of this, the company has never been perceived as a place of conflict, but rather as the possibility for everyone to live in the country.”

as much as here, most of the bosses are out of the row. “They live on the spot, went to the same schools as their workers, and frequent the same associations as them, tells Véronique Besse (Movement for France), the mayor of the town. In a theatre troupe, I saw Camille Ouvrard, the boss of Concept alu, playing with his employees. This is obviously changing the relationships at work.”

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The best illustration of this state of mind, it is of course the Puy du Fou, located to 10 kilometers of Seagrass beds. A place-said that nothing predestined to become one of the largest parks recreation French. Nothing, except the talent of a man -Philippe de Villiers, a local step – and, above all, a state of mind, based on volunteer work, the sense of belonging and the taste of adventure collective that transcend the individual destinies.

close Solidarity

This close solidarity leads to surprising behaviour. “When one of my workers had a problem with alcohol, I would have been able to dismiss him, of course, but it would have ended up on the side of the road, remembers Laurent Gaillard, at the head of a company of electricity of a hundred people. With colleagues, we decided to mobilize to support it, and today it came through.”

LAURENT GAILLARD, ELECTRICIAN. 100 employees approximately. “When a leader sells his company, he chooses the one that will allow the entrepreneurial spirit to continue.”


The employees are not left out. “When you have to work overtime in the evening to honor the order, there was never a problem to find volunteers, says the secretary of the works committee of a large local company. At the same time, if one of us needs to be absent while this was not planned, the manager will access its application. It is giving-giving.”

even More surprising: when the shareholder’s furniture Gautier has decided to separate its director general, employees… went on strike and marched in the streets for the support! A scene in despair Jean-Luc Mélenchon… “In the Vendée, highlights Retailleau, it is the place of life and not social class that determines the sense of belonging.”

The newcomers seem to flow into the mold without too much difficulty. See Wouter Barendrecht. The Dutch original had rolled his hump in London and Houston before landing in this country of the haut bocage, where he directs the company’s reducers for gardening equipment for his father-in-law, General Transmissions (750 employees in France, including 150 in the Herbaria). “I fell in love with the state of mind local, he says, because people, here, have no desire to succeed at the expense of the other.”

The Herbaria have another card in their game: most of the companies have a family shareholding. As a result, they follow long-term strategies, and keep their decision-making centres on-site. Hence, perhaps, the loyalty of their employees, despite pay appearance little elevated. In appearance only: as the companies are doing well, the incentive and participation are not negligible -up to three months of salary in certain years.

The frames are not lining up in les Herbiers

This is not to say, of course, that Herbaria do not know of any difficulty. The municipality has no hospital or train station. Higher education courses are lacking, and it is not always easy to attract the executives-not to mention their spouses. And then -problem of the rich, this situation of quasi-full employment leads to a lack of manpower.

as well As the most beautiful hours of the Thirty Glorious bloom in front of the businesses of the panels you like from the French cinema of the 1960s: “hiring engineers”, “We search for electricians”. For a little bit, the agents of the employment would be in the unemployment…

ERIC GRIGNON, SEAGRASS ENTERPRISES, 140 local companies. “We would not be in the spirit of poking an employee to a competitor.”


Seagrass beds therefore offer the best lesson you could ever dream of. No, unlike some speech rebattus, the future of France does not necessarily metropolisation. No, the rural environment is not condemned to the decline. No, the main springs of the economy are not tangible, but intangible.

As said by the economist Emmanuel of The Masselière, author of a book of light on the subject (2): “All the territories have their chance, provided they have a strategy.”

The Herbaria, obviously, have found the their.

culture stronger than the economy

In a region where private education still plays a major role, many of the patrons took place in the vendée have been influenced by the social doctrine of the Church, which emphasizes the concepts of “solidarity” and”preferential option for the poor”, a thousand miles of the “values” of financial capitalism. “When a leader sells his company, he does not choose the highest bidder, but the one that will allow the entrepreneurial spirit to continue,” says Laurent Gaillard.

“we would not be in the spirit of poking an employee to a competitor,” adds Eric Grignon, director of the local branch of The Roy Logistics and president of Seagrass Enterprises, an association that brings together 140 local companies. Example experienced: “When our historical factory was burned, in 2006, recalls Jean-Pierre Liébot, our suppliers and our craftsmen have given us priority. This test has resulted in a surge of solidarity is incredible.”

(1) “principle of humanity…”. The Terror and the Vendée, Ed. Fayard.

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(2) the inequality Of the cities… and development, Ed. The Harmattan.


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