Macron, who personally met with ProLogium CEO Vincent Yang at the start of the vetting process, was due on Friday to officially announce in Dunkirk the 5.2-billion-euro ($5.7 billion) investment.
Gilles Normand, ProLogium executive vice-president, said that after Macron, a former investment banker, pitched Yang more than a year ago Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire followed up and helped make the company’s case with the European Commission for EU financial incentives.
“There was then the realization that there might be some interesting possibilities, which was maybe a little bit different from the clichés about France,” Normand told a small group of journalists.
The timing of the investment is fortunate for Macron, who is trying to turn the page on months of strikes and protests over his plans to raise the retirement age two years to 64 and show skeptical voters his pro-business push is bearing fruit.
ProLogium expects the project to create 3,000 jobs directly and four times as much indirectly, a boon in a region where both the far right and far left score high after years of industrial decline.
The emergence of an industrial cluster around the three battery plants already in the works was in itself an attraction, offering a critical mass of material suppliers and skilled workers, Normand said.
Also playing in France’s favor was also its competitively priced zero-carbon electricity, produced by one of the biggest fleets of nuclear plants in the world but also increasingly by offshore wind farms and solar.
Normand added that the government sweetened the deal with an incentives package but could not provide details while further subsidies were under review at the European Commission.
Macron’s government is eager to use the recent relaxation of EU state aid rules to offer new tax breaks and other subsidies to encourage investment in green technologies.
He announced on Thursday that the government would offer a new tax credit worth up to 40 percent of a company’s capital investment in wind, solar, heat-pump and battery projects.
Meanwhile, the government also hopes to boost consumer demand for European-made electric cars by conditioning a 5,000-euro cash incentive to vehicles meeting demanding low-carbon standards in their production, effectively shutting out non-European cars.