A former textile manufacturing centre, Lille Métropole in northern France is the country’s fourth-largest urban conurbation with a population of over 1.1 million. Bringing together 85 municipalities in an area of over 600km², it reaches as far as the border with Belgium and includes the major centres of Lille city, Roubaix, Tourcoing and Villeneuve-d’Ascq—which are home to 40% of the population. In terms of public finances, Lille Métropole has an annual budget of €1.6 billion.
The conurbation is ideally located as a transport and logistics hub and has the potential to be a commuter town for London, Paris and Brussels thanks to the presence of Eurostar and TGV high-speed rail links. It is also well situated on the motorway network between northern France and Belgium. Lille Métropole features an array of architectural styles, some with Flemish influence, helping to make Lille Métropole a natural transition in France to neighbouring Belgium, as well as nearby Netherlands and England. It has a strong cultural presence with many art galleries in the region. Lille was European Capital of Culture in 2004. The creative industries, together with logistics and biotechnology, are leading the transition from Lille’s historical industrial past in textiles, clothing and furniture.
Lille Métropole represents 30% of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region’s population and 37% of its companies are based here, while the labour market comprises 500,000 employees and 45,000 companies. An additional 45,000 jobs are expected to be created over the next ten years. The unemployment rate in Lille in the second half of 2011 was 12.1%. Thanks to its accessibility at the heart of northwest Europe, Lille Métropole has 100 million consumers within a 300km radius.