Four international companies with investment projects in Flanders were this year’s winners at the Foreign Investment Trophy event. With this ceremony, for the eighth year in a row, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) is underlining the socioeconomic importance of foreign investments for Flanders, the northern region of Belgium. Last year, foreign companies channeled EUR 5.2 billion into sites in Flanders and committed to generating the highest-ever number of new investment projects and additional jobs in the region.
During the exclusive Foreign Investment Trophy event at the Gateway Office at Brussels Airport, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) presented four trophies:
1. the 2020 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy;
2. the 2020 Newcomer of the Year Trophy;
3. the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Trophy;
4. the 2020 Exceptional Investment Trophy.
2020 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy: Barry Callebaut (Switzerland)
Barry Callebaut has won the 2020 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy. Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon handed the trophy to Masha Vis-Mertens, VP of the Operations & Supply Chain Organization at Barry Callebaut. To further anchor its activities in Flanders and serve the international market even more effectively, the Swiss chocolate manufacturer is funneling EUR 100 million into a new, global distribution center in Lokeren. “With this investment, Barry Callebaut confirms Flanders’ strong logistics assets and strategic location,” said the Minister-President.
Barry Callebaut came out as the winner after three rounds of voting by a professional jury, the general public via an online poll, and those present at the event. Four other foreign investors were also nominated: truck manufacturer DAF Trucks (Netherlands/US), diamond producer Heyaru Engineering (Dubai/India), medtech specialist Hologic (US) and car transshipment firm International Car Operators (Japan).
2020 Newcomer of the Year Trophy: Inari (USA)
The US-based company Inari was the recipient of the 2020 Newcomer of the Year Trophy. Inari Managing Director Fred Van Ex and Inari Chief Scientific Officer Catherine Feuillet received the trophy from the hands of Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon. The biotech firm recently opened its first site in Flanders, a research center in Ghent, where it is collaborating with knowledge institutions VIB and ILVO on a new generation of seeds. Their aim is to develop crops that not only yield more and are better suited to a variety of soil types and weather conditions, but that are also less dependent on water and chemical use.
“This trophy acknowledges a company's first steps on Flanders’ soil,” commented CEO of Flanders Investment & Trade Claire Tillekaerts. “Attracting new investors is a must to keep our economy healthy and competitive. 2019 was an absolute record year in that regard: never before have foreign companies guaranteed so many investments and created so many new jobs in Flanders – not to mention the fact that different records were also broken in previous years. The fact that an innovative firm like Inari chooses to invest in Flanders also showcases the importance of the intense collaboration between our region’s business environment on the one hand, and our universities, university colleges and knowledge centers on the other.”
2020 Lifetime Achievement Trophy: Nike (USA)
The US sportswear manufacturer Nike was awarded the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Trophy. Nike ELC General Manager Kurt Van Donink received the trophy from Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon. The American giant's first investment in Flanders dates back to 1994 when it built a distribution center in Laakdal. A second and third distribution center followed in 1995 and 2007 in Meerhout and Ham, respectively. Over the years, those three sites in Flanders grew to become the European Logistics Campus (ELC): Nike's main logistics gateway to the European market.
In addition, the company recently reiterated its trust in the future of its local operations by investing in two expansions in Ham. These included the construction of the Wings DC in 2016, for which Nike previously won the Foreign Investment of The Year Trophy, and the Court DC in 2019. "The Lifetime Achievement Trophy acknowledges Nike's long and successful track record in Flanders," commented the Minister-President. "This international player has been continuously investing in Flanders for more than a quarter of a century and has grown into one of the main US-based employers in the region."
2020 Exceptional Investment Trophy: INEOS (UK)
British chemical company INEOS has won the 2020 Exceptional Investment Trophy. Flanders’ Minister-President Jan Jambon presented this singular trophy – which has never been awarded before – to CEO of Project One at INEOS John McNally. "Last year, INEOS announced the construction of a new production site at the Port of Antwerp: an investment of around 3 billion euros," stated the Minister-President. “There is no doubt that this is an exceptional investment. Not only is this amount the biggest investment ever made by INEOS, it also is the largest investment made in the entire European chemical industry in 20 years, boosting the sector’s resilience in the proces."
Piet Vandendriessche, CEO of Deloitte Belgium: “Deloitte is honored to host the Foreign Investment Trophy 2020 at the Gateway Office at Brussels Airport. This event recognizes the importance of foreign investment in Flanders as an engine for innovation, employment and our economy. International companies see Flanders as an attractive investment destination. The top quality of our ports and infrastructure, the interaction between our universities and knowledge centers as well as our highly educated population are important assets, which Deloitte also promotes within our international network. The fact that Flanders’ government pursues a stimulating policy completes the picture.”
Vanessa Temple, head of ING Wholesale Bank Clients at ING Belgium: “ING helps foreign investors connect with the local business ecosystem.”
About FIT and Flanders
International companies reap diverse rewards when deciding to invest in Flanders. As a major logistics crossroads at the heart of Europe’s purchasing power, Flanders is the place to be for companies with pan-European ambitions. The region is also known for the close collaboration between its private, public and academic sectors – making it fertile ground for innovative research and development activities in some of the most advanced technological niches.
Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) actively promotes sustainable international business in Flanders as a key element of the region’s socioeconomic development. FIT accomplishes this by supporting Flanders-based companies in their international business ventures and by attracting foreign investors. FIT assists businesses across Flanders in their international endeavors and provides custom advice and support. Companies can rely on the agency’s local and international networks of contacts, while FIT also offers financial support and information about the financial incentives available.