The linen industry remained the principal activity in Laval until the 20th century, when milk processing became more profitable.

Laval developed around a promontory, on which the castle was built, and along the river Mayenne.

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Etymologically spoken, however, the name of Laval, in all likelihood, merely stands for "the valley" in French ("la vallée" in contemporary language), to capture the lush valley of the Mayenne river, wherein Laval is situated.

This name commonly appears in other French location names, sometimes with a second word, such as in Laval-d'Aurelle (Ardèche) or Laval-sur-Doulon (Haute-Loire).

Laval is also surrounded by several forests, such as the Forêt de Concise, with c.

600 hectares, and the Bois de l'Huisserie, with 254 hectares.

The Laval metropolitan area is a small economic centre in western France, particularly active in the industrial sector, dairy production, electronics and chemicals.

Laval is economically oriented towards Rennes, the administrative capital of the region of Brittany, and located only 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Laval.Laval is located approximately 70 kilometres (43 miles) from Rennes, 75 kilometres (47 miles) from Le Mans and Angers, 130 km (81 miles) from Nantes, 135 km (84 miles) from Tours, 150 km (93 miles) from Caen and 280 km (174 miles) from Paris.It is also 100 km (62 miles) far from Le Mont-Saint-Michel and the surrounding sea resorts, located on the English Channel.During the 11th century, Laval is also called Castrum Vallis or simply Vallis; and Lavallis appears in 1080.Other Latin names include Valles and Castrum de Valibus. After the Renaissance, Lavallis and Lavallium are both commonly used by the clergy and the scholars.Saint-Berthevin forms part of the agglomeration, and Changé and Bonchamp-lès-Laval are well integrated, but the other communes remain rural areas with villages and hamlets. Laval enjoys a very mild climate because of its proximity with the Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel, giving it an oceanic climate.