US Companies cross the Atlantic to Flanders, the Gateway to Europe


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If you are looking for a strategic location for a new
business project, in whatever shape or form,
Flanders offers you a unique blend of advantages.
Flanders is the northern region of Belgium, with
Brussels as its capital. It is the gateway to Europe.
Thousands of foreign companies are already deriving
great benefit from the assets that Flanders boasts.
Setting up or expanding a business in the region can
be summarized into two words: smooth and easy.

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US Companies cross the Atlantic to Flanders, the Gateway to Europe

  1. 1. US companiescross the ATLANTIC toFlanders,the gateway to Europe
  2. 2. 2 3If you are looking for a strategic location for a newbusiness project, in whatever shape or form,Flanders offers you a unique blend of advantages.Flanders is the northern region of Belgium, withBrussels as its capital. It is the gateway to Europe.Thousands of foreign companies are already derivinggreat benefit from the assets that Flanders boasts.Setting up or expanding a business in the region canbe summarized into two words: smooth and easy.Salesopportunities inthe Heart of EuropeLocated deep in the Blue Banana –the economic power plant of Europestretching from North West Englandto Milan in Italy – Flanders is closeto large industrial and consumerareas, such as the region aroundParis, the Ruhr area, London, andthe Amsterdam-Randstad Area.Moreover, over 60% of Europe’spurchasing power is situated withina tight 300 miles radius aroundFlanders. Highly efficient logisticsoperations ensure that the mainmarkets in Europe can be servedwithin 24 hours. What’s more, fromBrussels – the capital of Flanders –other large EU capitals are merely ashort flight or high-speed train rideaway.Renowned US companies like Nike,3M, Manpower and Procter & Gamblehave already seized the numerousadvantages of Flanders. There aremore than 900 US companies and1,800 subsidiaries active in Belgium,employing roughly half a millionpeople. US direct investments inBelgium amounted to USD 9 billion in2010.The logistics knowledgeaccumulated in Flanders plays acrucial role in Nike’s worldwidesuccess.”Luc Hooybergs, General Manager, Nike ELCLaakdal (Flanders)We are located in the heartof Europe’s buying power, withexcellent connections to all ourcustomers in the EMEA region.Flanders is the best location inEurope.”Luc Hooybergs, General Manager, Nike ELCLaakdal (Flanders)Belgium – and Flanders asa region – is a world champion forchemicals and plastics. On a salesper capita basis, Belgium even isthe number one chemical countryin the world.”Koen Wilms, 3M Managing Director BeneluxRegionFlanders (Belgium) is theideal test market for innovations.If it works there, we’re pretty surethat it’ll also work elsewhere.”Hessel De Jong, General Manager BeneluxOperation at the Coca-Cola CompanyUS COMPANIES,we invite you to do business in Flanders• Around 3,800 diplomats are active inBrussels. The only place in the worldwhere you will find more is New YorkCity. Measured by number of eventsper year, it is the world’s secondinternational conference center.The city also has the most foreignjournalists after Washington DC.• Flanders’ many logistics assetshave been praised by companiesand experts alike. In the WorldBank’s Logistics PerformanceIndex 2011, for instance, Flandersranks 7th worldwide. ‘Transportinfrastructure’ and ‘Distance tomarket’ get the highest scores.• Belgium was the leading foreigninvestor in the US in 2011 withUSD 43.8 billion or 20% of the totalFDI in the US, proving Belgium’sworld status as financial center(cf. the notional interest deductionincentive), according to the WorldInvestment Report 2011 by UNCTAD.• According to the US CensusBureau, bilateral trade between theUS and Belgium was worth USD 41billion in 2010, with a large US tradesurplus.• According to the 2012 KOFIndex of Globalization, Belgium –and Flanders as a region – has themost open economy in the world,outclassing Ireland, the Netherlands,Austria and Singapore in the top 5.Did you know?Flanders offers a wide range of tax benefits and financial grants: • low effectivetax rate • widely available tax ruling • notional interest deduction • dividendwithholding tax exemptions • holding regime • reduced wage costs • RD taxbreaks • double taxation treaties.One of these, the notional interest deduction, deserves special attention. It isa unique deduction, granted to companies who use their own risk capital to(partially) finance their activities. As a result, the average effectively paid tax rateis 14.25%1in Belgium. For many multinationals, such as ExxonMobil, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Pfizer, this advantageous incentive hashad a major impact on their investment decisions in the region. According to theWorld Bank, those large companies – often subsidiaries of foreign corporations –pay a substantially reduced effective tax rate, averaging 5.2%2– one of the lowestrates in and outside of Europe.Optimization of all these tax incentives leads to one of the lowest effective corporatetax rates in the EU according to the Institute of International and European Affairs(see chart).Last but not least, the ruling commission provides foreign taxpayers with anindividually-tailored approach to guide them on the fiscal aspects of their invest-ment project in Flanders. Import and export duties, for instance, can also beincluded in an individual tax ruling.Notional interest deduction:a strong and unique incentive1 National Bank of Belgium, data of year 2010 (SMEs and large enterprises)2 World Bank, Doing Business, 2012.EFFECTIVE EU CORPORATE TAX RATES23,222.920.911,98,24,84,12520151050DE NL IE FR BE LUXUK
  3. 3. 4 5Brussels, the capital of Flanders (Belgium), can easilybe considered Europe’s lobbying capital. The city ishome to the NATO headquarters and more than 1,400governmental and non-governmental internationalorganizations. Brussels is, after Washington DC,the world’s largest center for advocacy. The capitalhouses:• over 10,000 lobbyists• 700 professional associations• 400 organized interest groups• 150 consultancy firms• 150 law firms specializing in European law• 30 chambers of commerce• over 1,000 accredited journalists• a permanent representation of over 220 regionsand federal entities• 1,300 European headquarters or sales offices offoreign companiesThe hub of EuropeIn spite of a surface area of a mere 13,522 km² (5220mi²), Flanders is home to over 700 European Distribution Centers(EDCs). With an average of 5 EDCs per 100 km² (38.6mi²), the region boasts the highest EDC density in Europe. It is aparadise for any logistics operation. Flanders is among the world’s best when it comes to the density of road, railroadand inland waterway networks. In short, Flanders is the region of choice to efficiently address the European market.Many US-based and other foreign multinationals already know the advantages of serving Europe from Flanders:BlackDecker, Bose, Decathlon, Duracell, Emrald Resilient Tyre, Honda, Mazda, Nike, Pfizer, Procter Gamble,Ranbaxy, Samsonite, Sara Lee, SKF, Toyota, Volvo, etc.Fast and affordableoffice spaceCompared to other regions and countries around the world and in Europe, Flandersoffers businesses affordable rent prices for office space. For example, and based onCushman Wakefield’s ‘2012 Office Space around the World’ survey, it is clear thatBrussels – the capital of Flanders (Belgium) – offers a reasonable occupancy rate:EUR 435 per square meter per year. In cities like London (EUR 1,978), Paris (EUR 875),Luxemburg City (EUR 621), Amsterdam (EUR 506) and Zurich (EUR 809), the cost issignificantly higher. What’s more, setting up a company in Flanders takes no longerthan 3 days. This is way faster than Denmark (6 days), France (7), the Netherlands(10), the UK (14) or Germany (16).Eloquent, flexibleand productiveFlanders boasts a readily available, highly skilled and motivated pool of talent.What’s more, most people in the region are also very proficient in the Englishlanguage. Owing to Flanders’ position right on a nodal point where Europe’sthree major cultural and language groups meet, people also speak fluentlyDutch, French and German. In 2010, according to World Bank data, Belgiumscored better than the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands in terms offlexibility. As a result, people in Flanders are among the most productive in theworld. With a GDP of USD 58.5 per worked hour in 2010, Belgium – and Flandersas a region – is only outmatched by the United States (USD 59.3) and Norway(USD 74.4).BRussels,wheredecisions aremadeA hotbed for innovationFlanders has an impressive track record when it comes to discoveryresearch and innovation across a wide range of disciplines and a variety ofsectors. The region houses 4 Strategic Research Centers, including IMEC(Europe’s leading research center on nanotechnology), world-class centerfor life sciences expertise VIB, product innovation consulting and researchcenter VITO and Flanders’ research institute for ICT and broadband iMinds.All 4 collaborate with both the academic and business worlds. They arebreeding grounds for cutting-edge technologies and for the processes thatshape tomorrow’s society.Taking into account tax advantages and incentives such as a 6.8% patentincome tax and a 75% tax exemption for the employer funded up to 60%,it comes as no surprise that RD is one of the top foreign investmentactivities in the region. In fact, the suburb of the Belgian capital Brusselshouses the second largest RD center of The Coca-Cola Company world-wide, right after the RD center in the Atlanta headquarters. Every year,500 new drinks are developed in Belgium. Following pre-trials, success-ful products are destined for Europe, Africa, Eurasia and the Middle East.Artevelde tower,GhentMultimodal transport infrastructure
  4. 4. 6 7Did you know?• Flanders isn’t only a great place to do business; itis also the place to be for quality beers, chocolate,waffles and French fries. Or is it Flemish fries?This tragic misunderstanding originates from theFirst World War. American soldiers in Belgiumwho tasted the delicious snack called themFrench fries, referring to the official language ofthe Belgian Army at the time. In the south of theNetherlands, bordering Belgium, they have alwaysbeen called Flemish fries.• Look out for many of your favorite clothing brandsin Flanders as well, like Jimmy Choo, Forever21, Abercrombie Fitch, Hollister and UrbanOutfitters.• In 2010, Belgium was the fourth most attractivecountry in the world for foreign investors, withan inflow of USD 61.7 billion, says the 2011 WorldInvestment Report by Unctad. Only the US, Chinaand Hong Kong attracted more foreign directinvestment.AtlantaFlanders Investment TradeConsulate General of Belgium235 Peachtree Street NEsuite 1730Atlanta, GA 30303+1 404 659 96 11atlanta@fitagency.comNew YorkFlanders Investment TradeConsulate General of BelgiumThe New York Times Building620 Eight Avenue, 44th floorNew York, NY 10018+1 212 66 40 930newyork@fitagency.comChicagoFlanders Investment Trade150 North Wacker Drive, Suite 2100Chicago, Illinois 60606+1 312 251 06 22chicago@fitagency.comLos AngelesFlanders Investment TradeConsulate General of Belgium6100, Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1200Los Angeles, California 90048+1 323 857 08 42losangeles@fitagency.comSan FranciscoFlanders Investment Trade155 Montgomerystreet, suite 204San Francisco, CA 94104+1 415 869 60 93sanfrancisco@fitagency.comProfessional support INsetting upVisit our websitefor more information:www.investinflanders.comand follow us on region, plentyof (low-cost) spaceFlanders may be relatively small, yet it holds plenty of spare capacity for logisticunits in Flanders. The seaports of Antwerp (the leading port in the world forfreight transport to and from the US), Zeebrugge, Ghent and Ostend have nocongestion. On average in the region, half a million m² (0.193mi²) are rented outyearly.According to the “Belgium Property Insight” report by CB Richard Ellis – a globalleader in real estate services – prime logistics space in Flanders traded at lessthan EUR 50/m² (10.76ft²) in 2012. The prime rent in Belgium, of which Flandersis the northern region, is one of the lowest in Western Europe, thanks to its lowproperty and building costs. When it comes to warehouse renting prices, Antwerpand Brussels come out cheapest as well according to a 2010 survey by Cushman Wakefield. With EUR 43 and EUR 47 per m² respectively, both cities score wellbelow other European heavyweights like Paris (EUR 100), London (EUR 113) andHamburg (EUR 72).Gaucheretstraat 90BE-1030 Brussels | BelgiumT: +32 2 504 88 71Email: invest@fitagency.beCLOSE TO YOU:Flanders Investment Trade has about70 regional offices worldwide to assist you,free of charge, wherever you are. For American investorsinterested in initiating commercial operations in Flanders(Belgium), initial contact can be made through our regional offices:An open-minded cultureFlanders is situated on the crossroads of three major cultures: German, Roman and Anglo-Saxon. This makes the region’sinhabitants very open and receptive to all sorts of influences from abroad, whether cultural, culinary, social or professional.In addition, international business cities, such as Antwerp or Brussels, have a thriving culture of expat communities from all4 corners of the world.As an American, you’ll feel at home in no-time, as the US community is well-represented in Flanders. In addition to theAmerican Chamber of Commerce ( and the Commercial Service department of the US Embassy, thereare numerous international schools, including the Brussels American School, the World International School, the AntwerpInternational School and the Da Vinci International School. Several expatriate organizations also provide online support.You can find them on and Investment Trade provides potential directinvestors with assistance and information regarding:• Site selection• Overview of all benefits, grants and incentives• Introduction to decision-makers• Legal aspects regarding setting up business locally• Identification of business opportunities• Integration into local community life
  5. 5. 8Gaucheretstraat 90 | BE-1030 Brussels | BelgiumT +32 2 504 88 71 | F +32 2 504 88 |