Stephen McNeil heading to France in search of 'opportunity'

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil travels to France Sunday for a weeklong visit that includes meetings with French tire maker Michelin.

Premier to visit French tire maker Michelin, games developer and two aerospace companies

Premier Stephen McNeil hopes to convince Michelin to expand in Nova Scotia. (CBC)

Premier Stephen McNeil leaves for France Sunday on a weeklong visit that will include meetings with tire maker Michelin aimed at convincing the French company, which is the province's largest private-sector employer, to expand operations in Nova Scotia.

The company operates three Nova Scotia plants, in Waterville, Bridgewater and Granton, and employs about 3,400 people in the province.

"We're going to look for opportunity," McNeil told reporters following a cabinet meeting Thursday.

Michelin's headquarters are located south of Paris in Clermont-Ferrand. McNeil said he would be meeting with senior executives who have ties to Michelin operations in the province.

There's no specific proposal on the table, according to McNeil, nor is the premier traveling with extra incentives to try to encourage an expansion.

"As you know, and all Canadians know, our economy is doing well in comparison to the rest of the country and we want to make sure they fully understand the opportunities that are here," he said.

"We've certainly dealt with Michelin on a number of occasions, ensuring that they know the programs that are available in the province."

The Michelin plan in Granton. (CBC)

McNeil noted the company and municipal officials in Kings County have both earmarked land surrounding the Waterville plant should Michelin decide to expand its operations in the Annapolis Valley.

"This is a way to continue to make sure that Michelin understands that the province of Nova Scotia is here and supporting local operations."

In March 2014, the company announced it was slashing 500 jobs from its Granton tire plant over the next 18 months. In the end, about 160 of those workers from Pictou County relocated to Michelin's other operations in Waterville and Bridgewater.

McNeil is also meeting in Rennes with senior officials at Ubisoft. The French game maker has a small operation in Halifax that employs 39 people. They develop games for mobile devices, including smartphones.

He will also be meeting with executives at aerospace companies Thales and Stelia Aerospace, which was formerly known as Composites Atlantic.

The premier's entourage includes Laurel Broten, president of Nova Scotia Business Inc., and a staffer, Mike McMurray from the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs and two employees from the premier's office.

While in France, McNeil will lay a wreath at the Juno Beach memorial.