The city was first noted for its thermal cures in Roman times. Its waters come from springs, including the Vichy Celestins and Vichy Saint-Yorre.
Vichy Pastilles (made in Vichy) are octagon-shaped candies made from soda contained in the spring waters.
The health and beauty business, with the laboratories of the L'Oréal company, also make it possible to publicize the city's name to a worldwide audience under the Vichy brand. (This French website discusses the history of this brand.)
Unlike the neighbouring communes on the Allier, such as industrial Montluçon and administrative seat Moulins, Vichy's economy is centred on the tertiary sector, with companies like the Compagnie de Vichy developing the health and well-being sector to mitigate the decline of medical hydrotherapy. The local market, open on Sundays, attracts shoppers from tens of kilometres around.
The closing of two important local employers, the Manurhin company and the Sediver company, has reduced employment in the Vichy basin. Job creation by developing companies such as the NSE electronics company or the Satel call center company does not probably compensate for the removal of jobs which will result from this, despite the Internet tour operator Karavel's (www.promovacances.com) establishment of a new call center in May 2005.
Nevertheless, the three most important employers of the city belong to the public sector; the hospital (1120 employees), the town hall (720) and the college of Presles (370).
Since 1989 Vichy has been one of the 7 sites of the European Total Quality Institute (l'Institut Européen de la Qualité Totale.)
Pôle University and Lardy Technology, born from a project of thermal waste land rehabilitation and launched during the mid-nineties, is an economic priority. This 9,000 m2 (2.2 acres) campus accommodates 600 students in the downtown area, in ten areas of study including the fields of biotechnology, international trade, multi-media and languages. The CAVILAM (Centre of Live Approaches to Languages and the Media), created in Vichy in 1964, is now installed with Pôle-Lardy.
The Palace of the Congresses is a venue primarily for the conferences of trade associations and learned societies. The structure is 1,800 m2 (19,000 sq ft) in area, including two plenary rooms and fifteen multi-use rooms. With 25,000 visitors yearly, the conferences must now carry the economic role once held by the hydrotherapy, which today counts only 12,000 patients each year. The hydrotherapy business will now have to reorganise itself to take a less strict therapeutic-only role, and re-orient itself for patients' stays shorter than the traditional 3 weeks.
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