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Record High for Foreign Investment in Flanders

In 2018, foreign companies invested €4.24 billion in Flanders, an all-time record, and created 5,339 new jobs. The US was responsible for nearly 1/5 of the 234 investment projects begun last year, making it once again the number one investor in the region.

€4.24 billion invested, 234 projects & 5,339 new jobs: 2018 was another top year for foreign investment in Flanders, according to the most recent data from Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT). It was the biggest ever inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region, twice as much as the record year 2017. The number of new investment projects also increased by 8.8% (from 215 to 234 projects), while the number of jobs created is roughly on par with the previous year (5,377 in 2017 vs. 5,339 in 2018).

The fact that foreign companies invested twice as much in Flanders in 2018 is excellent and encouraging news. Flanders succeeds in positioning itself as an attractive and reliable investment destination in times of geopolitical and socioeconomic uncertainty. In the face of challenges such as Brexit, migration and increasing tensions at Europe’s borders, foreign investors clearly find their way to Flanders more and more easily.

Claire Tillekaerts, CEO of Flanders Investment & Trade

Year after year, the US remains the number one investor in Flanders, generating 40 new projects in 2018. Examples include Eastman’s €3 million investment in its new European Innovation Center in Zwijnaarde, 3M’s €4 million investment in its Customer Technical Center in Zwijndrecht, and Johnson & Johnson’s $300 million investment in Ghent-based biotech company Argenx. Neighboring countries The Netherlands, France and Germany also remain committed to investing in Flanders, as they are respectively ranked as the second, third and fourth biggest investors.

Flanders is successfully attracting new investors, as greenfield investments grew to represent more than half of the total (50.43% or 118 projects). Foreign companies have mainly invested in production/manufacturing (24.79% or 58 projects), R&D (23.5% or 55 projects) and sales and marketing (22.65% or 53 projects). The number of jobs created was highest in the logistics sector (1,670 jobs).

Foreign investments are key drivers for the Flemish and Belgian economy, not only by spurring job creation, but also by bringing new expertise and know-how to strengthen the economic fabric. 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 direct 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!

In February 2019, AmCham Belgium will publish the next edition of its Priorities for a Prosperous Belgium, our policy recommendations for the future regional and federal governments, which will focus on the importance of foreign investments for the Belgian economy. Stay tuned!

Voting is now open for Flanders Investment & Trade’s 2019 Foreign Investment Trophy, which will be presented on March 18.

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