Belfort: from Alstom to General Electric, a city of a thousand faces

Belfort: from Alstom to General Electric, a city of a thousand faces

An emblematic employment area in France, Belfort (Territoire de Belfort) has suffered a lot but has also been able to reinvent itself.

Belfort: from Alstom to General Electric, a city of a thousand faces

Built in Belfort (Territoire de Belfort), the TGV did not serve the city for a long time. Along with the lion, it is one of its emblems. “I have always worked on the TGV. The first TGV that came out was something extraordinary ”, confides Denis Jeangérard, former Alstom worker. For the journalists of France Télévisions, he remembers his years in the company. “It was quite common to see the father, the son, working in this factory ”, he says. The 1979 strike for the 13th month, supported at the time by the whole city, also made an impression.

Change of epoch

In 2014, General Electric bought the Energy part of Alstom. The American giant is cutting 1,000 jobs in five years. While a new wave of job cuts is expected at the end of the year, the city is preparing. “Belfort was 4,500 employees, now more than 3,400”, declares CFE CGC – General Electric union representative Philippe Petitcolin. He will be able to count on the support of EUROCFD, a city study office left behind since the American company decided in 2017 to do without this service in order to call on engineers in India.

These incidents have direct consequences on purchasing power, the city center which “Pauperise”, as indicated by a trader, or real estate. Touched but not sunk, Belfort has nevertheless been able to reinvent itself: the technological university of Belfort Montbéliard, which works on hydrogen and fuel cells, is at the forefront in its fields of European research.