France luring tech jobs with R&D tax credits

Not all tech jobs are heading to India and Eastern Europe -- some of the plum ones are finding a home in Paris

Sometimes you have to take a trip abroad to see the U.S. tech workforce's future devolving before your very eyes.

In the comments on "The ever bleak future of tech support," traveler118 listed some of the jobs he believes have been driven out of the United States by the EPA, unions, or corporate greed: oil extraction, mining, coal production, responsible logging, heavy manufacturing, the automobile industry, aircraft manufacturing, the semi-conductor industry, textiles, appliance manufacturing, ship building, tool manufacturing, and virtually all electronics manufacturing. "Politicians seek to line their pockets instead of representing the voters who hired them," he says.

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I think I saw some of those U.S. jobs while I was in Paris last week. The jobs were sporting fine leather shoes, climbing the Eiffel Tower, downing undersized cups of coffee, and sipping wine at lunch. But they didn't go to France because they were driven out by corporate greed or unions. (At least that's not what they said.) They went because the French government invited them and laced that invitation with sugar. In addition, it wasn't the kind of sweetener that makes the pain au chocolate so scrumptious there -- rather it was of the cold, hard cash variety.

France's Crédit Impôt Recherche offers one of Europe's most generous research tax credits to companies willing to locate their R&D facilities in France. This corporate tax incentive offers a return on R&D spending incurred by any company located in France, regardless of sector or size. A company that invests R&D money in France gets back 50 percent of R&D spending in the first year, 40 percent in the second year, and 30 percent in subsequent years, up to €100 million.

As is often the case, that sugar is working. Google is establishing a research and development center in Paris that the Internet giant hopes "will be a hub for technology that promotes the past, present, and future of pan-European culture." Microsoft built a new R&D center in Paris last year. Dell, which had downsized in France in 2009, created 360 jobs in 2010: 240 in Montpellier and 120 in Paris-St. Denis.

Add that sugar to the recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics that found that the math skills of U.S. students still in high school are, in short, appalling (17 countries do considerably better than us, France among them), and those jobs will probably stay in France. Why would they come home? Sure, we have ice in our drinks here and terrific TV shows. But can that compare with cash incentives and an educated workforce -- especially if you consider the entire European Union? I imagine the jobs will simply learn to adapt by turning off the TV and ordering a Beaujolais.

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