Biot’s glass manufacturers are calling for help
At the Biot glass factory, three master blowers produced bubble bottles that morning, facing visitors. But facing “unbearable” electricity prices, the glass artisans of the former Templar castle are calling for help to keep their furnaces from going out.
“In France, to be listened to, do you have to say that I risk bankruptcy?”: Anne Lechaczynski, head of the Verrerie de Biot family since 2000, fights for the survival of this craft.
Because the electricity bill of the company, which employs fifteen people and has an annual turnover of 2 million euros, exploded from 63,000 euros in 2022 to 184,000 euros in 2023.
Admittedly, he will receive about 60,000 euros in aid. But “there are 60,000 euros left to digest and the company will not be able to cope,” says the sixty-year-old woman, who started her career as a raw materials “trader” in the United States.
“For the past three months, I’ve been somewhat back to my old job. I’m dedicating myself to my work, except finding cheaper electricity suppliers,” he adds.
A true niche of artisans and glass artisans, there are only 400 left in France, including six in Biot.
Antoine Pierini, who works alone, explains that they are “particularly affected” by the rising cost of energy.
“For example, the peculiarity of our activity that distinguishes us from ceramics is that we have to keep our glass melting furnaces at 1200 degrees all the time.
At that temperature, it takes 15 days to turn off the furnace without breaking it, and it takes that long to bring it back up to that temperature,” he explains.
“If we don’t want to lose weeks of production, we have to keep them forever,” explains the master, who also has to deal with a “dizzying” increase in the price of raw materials. 1400-3000 euros per ton.
“The Seven Plagues of Egypt”
The glass factory, the “flag bearer” of the city of 10,000 since the 1950s, which is partly home to the prosperous technopolis of Sofia-Antipolis, “does not meet the criteria for government aid,” laments concert mayor Jean-Pierre. Dermit and MP Eric Pauget, both LR.
Together with Senator (LR) Patricia Demas, they took over Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, and Olivia Grégoire, representative of the Minister responsible for small and medium enterprises and crafts, in October.
“Ms. Gregoire is aware of the problem, but the answer given is not adapted to the reality of the glass manufacturers,” the parliamentarian emphasizes.
For the deputy, “strong decisions” are needed to preserve this profession, which “represents the identity of the area and the tourist wealth”. So, according to the mayor’s office, the Biot glass factory attracts 600,000 tourists a year. This will make it the 3rd tourist destination in the Alps-Sea Islands.
Since 2015, “we have the seven plagues of Egypt,” Ms. Lechaczynski quips. “Floods that destroyed all our resources, then Covid, then the war in Ukraine, accompanied by an explosion in the price of energy.”
After being invited to a round table with the Minister’s Delegation last week, this fighter who wanted to keep hope said, “I find it difficult to pay a bill, to accept it, which is not the result of the bad vision of the entrepreneur that I am.” Gabriel Attal, Public Accounts Officer, passing through Nice.
To find solutions, he recognizes, “we can now join a consultant to end the crisis in the Department of Public Finance.” “This consultant will study the documents individually,” the chief of staff of the prefecture promises.
“But we have to act quickly,” Mayor Biot insists: “If we stay in the state, next summer will be very difficult.”