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Foreign investment in Flanders on the rise

In 2017, foreign companies invested €2.08 billion in Flanders, divided over 215 projects, creating 5,377 new jobs. Once again, the US leads the pack, responsible for 1/5 of all investments.

€2.08 billion invested, 215 projects & 5,377 new jobs: 2017 was a strong year for foreign investment in Flanders, according to the most recent data from Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). The small dip in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2016 caused by socio-economic and geopolitical circumstances turned out to be only temporary, as last year companies and investors found their way back to Flanders. In 2017, job creation reached the highest level in 15 years.

The US remains the number one investor in Flanders, responsible for 46 new projects. Examples include Duracell committing to invest €50 million on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in Aarschot, FRX Polymers investing €10 million to double production at its Antwerp site, Johnson & Johnson breaking ground on a €42.8 million new research facility in Beerse, Unilin (Mohawk) expanding its production capacity in West Flanders with investments worth €125 million, and Cargill starting construction on a new logistics hub for malt and barley in the Port of Antwerp. Next to the US, Belgium’s neighboring countries The Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK are among the top 10 investors in Flanders.

Most new projects in 2017 were greenfield investments (40.93%), whereby the company built its operations from the ground up. The remaining projects were expansions (33.49%) or mergers and acquisitions (25.58%). Foreign companies have mainly invested in production/manufacturing (71 projects, or 1,832 jobs), logistics (53 projects or 1,686 jobs) and R&D (43 projects or 1,367 jobs).

The number of jobs created in R&D is remarkably higher than previous years, thanks to the attractive tax regime for researchers. According to Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois, Flanders is resolutely committed to realizing Industry 4.0 and creating a favorable investment climate. Bourgeois and FIT took this message to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last week, hoping to attract even more investments. Prime Minister Charles Michel praised the country during his speech at the Belgian Power Reception in Davos: “Belgium is uniquely phenomenal … Now is the time to invest In Belgium. Take the chance.”

With these investments, US and other international companies demonstrate their confidence in Flanders and Belgium. AmCham Belgium supports the efforts to improve Belgium’s attractiveness for foreign investment and is ready to work with all levels of government to build on these figures and continue this positive evolution for the whole country: we want companies to say #Yes2Belgium!

Look out for future blog posts in this series about FDI in Brussels and Wallonia!