Tuesday, December 6, 2011 | 3:47 PM
Last year, our Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt promised to open a research and development and culture centre in France. Today, Eric returned to Paris to inaugurate our new 10,000-square meter office in a refurbished 19th century Second Empire building near the St. Lazare Train Station. It will be our headquarters not just for France, but our entire Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa operations.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy honored us with his presence. “Why as President, do I make this symbolic move and come to Google?" he asked rhetorically to a packed courtyard auditorium. “I love the United States, and its motto that everything is possible whatever your origins.” President Sarkozy also officially launched the Elysee Palace’s YouTube channel and his visit was shown on YouTube Live, the section of the site where we list all live streamed events.
The President participated in a Google+ Hangout, taking questions from French-speaking Google employees around the world. (“What time is it there?” he asked someone dialing in from California.) On a serious note, he expressed his gratification for how Google has moved to dig deep roots in France. “When I first met Eric, we had a frank conversation,” he recalled, saying his message was clear. “I asked him how long Google was preparing to make money in France without investing here. I told him that Google must have its feet in France.”
Our new Paris headquarters is emblematic of our commitment to one of Europe’s fastest-growing Internet economies. According to a recent McKinsey study that we helped sponsor, the web contributed to 3,2% of the French GDP in 2009 and created more than 700,000 jobs during the past 15 years. Between now and 2015, McKinsey estimates that the digital contribution will grow to 5.5% of GDP, and 450,000 additional jobs will be created. In order to help accelerate the French digital engine, we’ve launched a Startup Café, an online platform offering information and tools.
Our investment plan for France is ambitious, and extends far beyond buildings. We’re expanding our engineering presence to take advantage of France’s strong engineering talent pool and are making significant academic investments, including a partnership with the French national research center CNRS.
France is a global cultural leader and we’re working hard to partner with French writers, filmmakers and musicians. Over the past year, we've reached an agreement with the biggest French publisher Hachette to scan and sell digital versions of out-of-print books and are providing payment systems for French news publishers from Hachette. YouTube has signed royalty-collection agreements with music copyright societies and our new Cultural Institute will be located in the Paris headquarters. It will aim at driving innovation in cultural preservation, creation and access, not just in France, but across the world.
Just before the President left, he asked to say a few final words. He praised our “dynamism” and wished well our expanded operations, before making a parting promise. “I hope this inauguration is one of a long series,” he said. “If you invite me to another building opening, I will come.”