Economic overview

The Orne was a pioneering department during the industrial revolution and a sense of initiative and capacity for reaction are still key here today. Cutting-edge technologies, new procedures and applied research are the founding stones on which the area’s economic dynamics are built.

The Orne is proud of its industrial fabric comprising some very competitive and diversified companies, leaders on the French and international markets in various sectors.


AgricultureAgriculture is a vital sector for employment in the Orne, with 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs, representing 9% of the working population. This figure is much higher than the national average of 4%. To maintain its central position in the economic environment, agriculture in the Orne has learned to adapt production to market requirements. In the 1980s, cash crops (cereals, oilseeds and pulses) saw significant growth in surface area and yield. This growth has slowed down since reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy in 1992 and 2000. Since 2000, surface areas and yields have tended to stabilise overall.

Due to milk quotas, cattle remain the basis of the two main Orne products - milk and beef (two-thirds of the value of agricultural produce). However, cattle numbers - mainly dairy stock - have tended to fall since the introduction of milk quotas in 1984, a trend which has gathered pace since 1995. Other products have however enabled agriculture in the Orne to diversify somewhat over the last twenty years, to include poultry, sheep, pigs and saddle and race horses.

With over 400 stud-farms owning ten or more horses, the Orne is the leading French department for raising thoroughbred and standardbred horses.


Agro-alimentaireAs a rural department, the Orne has a sound agribusiness industry, working closely with the 7,500 local agricultural concerns. This industry was long based on the beef and dairy sectors, but has since diversified to adapt to consumer requirements.

From chocolate-making to cider production, from biscuits to frozen steaks, companies in the Orne are present on all markets.

They have a joint aim - maintaining quality at the highest level while financing research and training. This policy has been fruitful - a large number of products from the Orne have been awarded labels testifying to the care given at each stage in the production process.


PlasturgieThe plastics sector is undergoing strong growth, with development encouraged by the Orne for over 20 years.

The region’s main asset is the presence of training structures which are unique in France – the Institut Supérieur de Plasturgie d'Alençon (ISPA) – the higher institute for plastics in Alençon and the Institut Supérieur du Moule (ISMO) - higher institute for moulding, which train people involved at every stage in plastic production, from project leaders to engineers.

In the Orne, the plastics industry has a pool of qualified labour, able to adapt to company positioning (manufacturers, mould and tool testers or repairers) and to markets (packaging, automotive, office supplies, telephony, household electrical and building).

The automotive industry

Industrie automobileAutomotive manufacturing is one of the best performing sectors on the Orne industrial scene.

Whether they are original equipment suppliers or sub-contractors, companies all compete for the position of leader. Among them, we can quote two successful examples - Faurecia and Bagster, European leaders for car seats and saddles and baggage for motorbikes.

The graphic industry

Industrie graphiqueThe Orne has a long-standing graphic industry (printing, publishing and cardboard). The earliest noteworthy event was the printing of the first edition of Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire in Alençon in 1857.

Today, while companies in the Orne still supply major Parisian publishers, they have diversified their customer base to include the pharmaceutical industry, insurance, food processing and banking. The graphic industry is a dynamic sector and one of the leaders in the department in terms of turnover and investment.

Mechanics and metal working

La mécanique et le travail des métauxFrom the 18th century onwards, the Orne developed a network of forges, foundries and wire drawing mills (iron wire, needles, etc.) which put it among the leading French industrialised regions.

Heir of this longstanding tradition, metallurgy is still the basis of the department’s industrial fabric, with a dense network of highly-qualified SMIs, specialised in sub-contracting.

From the manufacture of bridge cranes to wood-cutting machines, from metallic moulds to press tools, metallurgy in the Orne is able to provide a relevant response to all industrial requirements. It is a dynamic sector where company size is no obstacle to competitiveness, for example Bohin France S.A.S. is the leading French company for sewing needles.

Machines and electrical or electronic equipment

Machines et équipements électriques et électroniquesWith national and international standing, Orne-based companies manufacturing machines and electrical or electronic equipment are the very symbol of the department’s industrial dynamic.

Their main asset is their capacity for reaction, helping them come up with a wealth of innovations. The machine and electrical/electronic equipment sector has been awarded many different certificates - covering environmental protection, quality control and improved safety - testifying to the high level of skills among companies in this field.

Trade, artisans and services

ArtisanatThe artisan sector in the Orne is one of the most developed in France. With 4,779 companies listed in the Trades register in 2004, the density of the craft industry in the department far exceeds the national and regional averages, with 164 craftsmen for 10,000 inhabitants, versus 138 in France as a whole and 146 in Lower Normandy.

The main asset of the craft industry in the Orne is the great diversity of activities, meaning it can easily adapt to the economic climate. Since 1999, growth has mainly been felt in the building and service sectors, thus confirming their dominant position.