Romans-sur-Isère is a town in the French Alps that has been a traditional center for shoemaking. But most of the big shoemakers have left; well-known brands have moved their production to China or Turkey. But entrepreneur Christophe Chevalier is fighting the trend.
He's bringing the shoe business back to the area - and hiring people who have been unemployed for years as well as retirees who used to work in the shoemaking industry. He was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 for his efforts. Chevalier emphasizes high-quality production in his companies, and takes advantage of his employees' special skills to create shoes that are almost completely handmade. The company makes only a few thousand pairs per year and sells them through small shops in the region and in specialty stores in Paris. Chevalier's involvement in the region goes beyond shoes. He's invested heavily in local companies and founded an economic development center that provides education and matches workers with local employers -- all in an effort to convince businesses to stay in the area.