Fit announces nominations for Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy


A chocolate manufacturer, diamond producer and medtech provider are three of the five up for the trophy that rewards local investment by firms based abroad

Think globally, act locally

The five nominations for the Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy have been released by Flanders Investment & Trade (Fit). The award is handed out to a company based overseas that has added substantial value to its facility in Flanders over the previous year. Fit also looks at investment plans announced by companies when considering the five nominees.

The public can join a professional jury in voting for the winner, and those present at the awards ceremony will also have a say. This means that the winner will not necessarily be known until the night of the ceremony itself, on 8 February. Voting is open as of today on the English-language website, where videos introducing all of the nominees can also be viewed.

“Alongside locally based companies, foreigner investors are a crucial driving force behind Flanders’ economy,” said Fit CEO Claire Tillekaerts. “Not only do they strengthen our economic fabric, they also create additional jobs and introduce new knowledge and expertise to our business environment. The Foreign Investment Trophy serves as a token of appreciation for their efforts.”

Foreign investors create additional jobs and introduce new knowledge and expertise to our business environment

- Fit CEO Claire Tillekaerts

The five nominees for 2019 are: Barry Callebaut, DAF Trucks, Heyaru Engineering, Hologic and International Car Operators (ICO).

1  The best known to the general public is of course chocolate producer Barry Callebaut. The Swiss company has released plans for the world’s largest chocolate warehouse, which will be built in Lokeren, East Flanders.

The cocoa processor and chocolate manufacturer plans to move its European logistics site from Aalst to the new site in Lokeren. It will be larger than the existing site, representing a total investment of €100 million. The 85 employees at the current logistics centre will move to the new site, and the company predicts that new jobs will be created, but is not yet able to determine how many.

Based in Zürich, Barry Callebaut is the result of a merger between Flemish chocolate producer Callebaut and French company Cacao Barry. While Barry Callebaut is the parent company, those businesses still operate under their brand names.

2  Dutch truck manufacturer DAF Trucks, part of US-based Paccar company, is channelling €200 million into its parts factory in Westerlo, Antwerp province – its greatest single investment in the history of the company.

Some 2,400 employees at this site manufacture cabins and axles for DAF’s medium and heavy-sized trucks. The expansion will see truck cabin production capacity increase by 45%, reaching as many as 300 cabins per day in a two-shift system.

3  Heyaru Engineering is planning Europe’s largest lab-produced diamond factory for Lommel in Limburg. Heyaru, which is headquartered in Dubai and backed by Indian owners, opened a local entity in Lommel in 2016.

The new facility will also house a diamond research centre. Heyaru is investing a total of €24 million to build the site, which it expects to create some 150 additional jobs.

4  The American firm Hologic, meanwhile, opened a 4,000 square-meter service and training centre in Zaventem in 2019. The company specialises in women’s health care through early detection and treatment of breast and gynaecological conditions.

The new site includes a centre of service excellence as well as a high-tech training centre for health-care professionals. Medical personnel have travelled from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East have gathered here to receive specialised training on Hologic’s diagnostic and imaging devices.

We spent a lot of time investigating where would be best to attract the right talent, and no other place really came close

- Hologic VP Ian Eggs

“We spent quite a lot of time investigating where would be the best place to attract the right talent and the right skill-set,” said Ian Eggs, Hologic’s vice-president of service and sales. “As we looked at all of that across Europe and even in South America and other places where the trend to offshore some of these shared service centres has been, there was really no other place that came close. That’s why we chose to invest here.”

Last year, the medtech company achieved a global turnover of $3.4 billion. It employs 6,300 worldwide, with 100 working in Zaventem. It plans another 60 jobs for the site.

5  Finally, the Japanese International Car Operators (ICO) has made Zeebrugge Europe’s main e-car port. Because the coastal port’s is number one in the world in the handling of light vehicles, transhipment firm ICO – a subsidiary of Nippon Yusen Kaisha – chose to invest €60 million in the site.

In addition to the construction of a new office building and the expansion of the main car terminal, ICO plans to construct 11 wind turbines on the site. The 150-meter turbines will be running at full power later this year. This investment will create 100 new jobs.

“Getting Flanders on the shortlists of foreign companies with international growth plans is crucial to fortifying the economy as well as employment in our region,” said minister-president Jan Jambon. “With the Foreign Investment Trophy, we aim to recognise the dedication and engagement of these foreign companies in Flanders.”

The winner of the Foreign Investment Trophy will be announced at a ceremony at Deloitte Belgium in Zaventem on 11 February. Two additional trophies will also be presented during the evening.

The Lifetime Achievement Trophy acknowledges the efforts of a foreign investor with a long track record in Flanders, while the Newcomer of the Year Trophy rewards a foreign firm that has invested in Flanders for the first time.

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