Aalst most enterprising city
Aalst in East Flanders has been declared this year’s Enterprising Town by Unizo, the Flemish organisation representing the self-employed. Aalst won the prize for its services package Hartelijk Ondernemen (Open-hearted Enterprise), which provides tailor-made services for new businesses. “We’re not talking about clichéd activities but a structural and integrated approach to enterprise policy,” according to the jury, chaired by Mark Suykens, the director of the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG).
The package includes the services of an economic consultant, a centre manager and a coach for the food service industry. “The economic service in Aalst no longer has to ask itself if it meets the requirements of entrepreneurs, but instead how it can meet their every need,” stated the jury. “That’s a way of thinking that still hasn’t become the norm in many towns.”
Nominations for the prize are proposed by local Unizo branches and considered by the jury, which also includes representatives of the Flemish government. Ghent and Genk were among other nominees. Unizo at the same time announced that Overijse in Flemish Brabant has been voted Enterprise Municipality of the year, for its Vibrant Overijse campaign, which combines a strong business policy with one-off actions, including the renovation of the station square, a business premises fund, a commercial innovation plan and a sticker campaign.
“After a wide-ranging strategic planning analysis, Overijse decided to take action with a programme made to measure for businesses,” the jury said. “The most important aspect of the project is the very high rate of participation of businesses, which sets an example for other municipalities.”
The awards for the two towns will be something for them to take in to the coming municipal elections in October, commented Unizo director-general Karel Van Eetvelt. “Municipal leadership like this is essential for local economic policy,” he said. “Because the municipality is so close to businesses, it is crucial to get them involved in the preparation for the elections.” With that aim in mind, local Unizo chapters have contacted 200 municipalities with a shopping list of priorities for policy following the elections.