Rose Catherin, ambassador of the Rhône-Alpes economy in Atlanta
With its first office in Atlanta, and another office in Philadelphia opened three years ago, there is no doubt that, as director of the American branch of the company Entreprise Rhône-Alpes International (ERAI), Rose Catherin holds keys to the economic vitality of one of the most attractive regions of France. Located in 21 countries worldwide, ERAI is at the forefront of economic development of the Rhône-Alpes region in the global market. For the past eight years, Rose Catherin provides customized support to small and medium enterprises (SME) of the Rhône-Alpes region in their efforts to establish themselves in the US.
Originally from the region she now represents, Rose studied business and international finance at the Université de la Méditerranée in Marseille, then at the Universtié Pierres Mendès-France in Grenoble. At 20, she jumped on the opportunity to do an internship in Atlanta as part of her studies. Following this first experience, which opened the door to a career in international trade in the U.S., she settled in Atlanta in 2002 and then worked for the transport and logistics company, Mid-America Overseas as a sales executive before joining ERAI as project manager in 2004.
Fresh out of school, Rose had to quickly get used to her new environment, starting a career at top speed and putting off her dreams of traveling around the great American territory. Unaccustomed to the southern accent, the language barrier was the biggest obstacle she encountered upon her arrival. Living with an American family, she had to overcome her communication difficulties and adapt to the country. Today, she is fully integrated into the local community and is involved in regular activities of the French-American Chamber of Commerce and the French Senior Trade Advisors Association. Also, we cooperate enthusiastically with the consulate and the France-Atlanta project.
The country she discovered was a country that she described as very dynamic, full of opportunities and different cultures, but also a country in transition over the last few years. "The economic recession of the past four years has forced the United States to renew and change very quickly,” she observed. In the U.S., Rose has seen a change in shift in lifestyle and behaviors of companies, towards a more openness to the outside world, greater competition, and taking initiative. Particularly hit by the economic crisis, which especially affected the construction and services sectors in the Atlanta area, Rose faced various difficulties in her work of helping SME get established in the U.S. between 2008 and 2009, when French companies were waiting and watching the US economy, “a situation that ended when the crisis hit the European continent,” shared Rose. “We then realized the magnitude of this international crisis, and if projects resumed, it would be strategic acquisition or implantation projects more focused on the long term.”
With10 years experience in the U.S., Rose appreciates the good life of the city of Atlanta. “Although this is not a place that comes to mind automatically in coming [to the US], we must recognize the great dynamism and ease by which we can integrate in the region, both for companies and on a personal level. With the wonderful climate, its airport and industrial sector, the Atlanta area is a kind of paradise lost in expansion where we have the chance to work and live, not to mention travel.”
Globetrotter at heart, Rose quickly caught up with her American dream of touring the country. From Los Angeles to Boston, she discovered the richness of a gigantic country through the many variations of cultures, cuisines, environments and economies. What does she appreciate about the United States? “It’s the great freedom we can enjoy both in work and in our daily life, the possibility to do anything, to set our own limits, in short, to remain master of our destiny.”