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8 reasons why your investment in Flanders could be a hole-in-one

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During the 39th Ryder Cup, Flemish golfer Nicolas Colsaerts broke onto the international scene with a bang. The big-hitting rookie showed Flanders has a lot to offer. Discover 8 reasons why your investment in the region could also be a hole-in-one.

If you are a fan of golf, the name Nicolas Colsaerts undoubtedly rings a bell. During the edition of the Ryder Cup, the so-called ‘Belgian Bomber’ singlehandedly beat Tiger Woods, shooting 8 birdies and 1 eagle. An impressive tour the force by the Flemish rookie. But did you know that Flanders has more to offer than just brilliant golf players? Discover 8 reasons why your investment in the region could be a hole-in-one. 

1. Located at the heart of Europe

As the northern half of Belgium, Flanders is located at the hub of the wealthiest and most populated part of Europe. Its immediate neighbours are France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK. The region therefore sits at the crossroads of the three major European cultures – Latin, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon. In addition, Belgium’s capital, Brussels, serves as headquarters for the European Union, NATO and a host of international governmental and non-governmental organizations. No wonder many multinationals are drawn to this central location. It allows them to serve lucrative markets within the 27 EU member states, the other European countries and far beyond.

2. Excellent infrastructure

Flanders offers the infrastructure that is needed to make the most of its central location. In transport, the region is home to four ports, including three of Europe’s main ports: Antwerp, Ghent and Zeebrugge. Each port connects with the hinterland, through Flanders’ extensive inland waterway and rail networks. Two airports, Brussels and Ostend, are also close to the rail networks, as well as to the freeway system – one of the highest density road networks in the world. As for communications infrastructure, Flanders is a densely ‛wired’ region. It provides the level and reliability of business communications and connectivity required in today’s fast-moving global market. Brussels is among Europe’s leading Internet hubs and 96% of companies based in Belgium are Internet-connected.

3. Ease of setting up a business

Flanders truly values entrepreneurship and the authorities here are committed to simplifying your move to its market by cutting out the red tape. With the introduction of a single starter form, you can easily fulfil your main administrative start-up formalities. The expected launch of governmental e-services will cut the time to establish a business further still (less than a week in some cases, provided all the company details are available). On top of that, a full advisory and support service is available for companies considering their first steps into Flanders. Government agency Flanders Investment and Trade (FIT) will assist you with every aspect (both legal and administrative) of your proposed start-up.

4. Flexible customs regulations

Because of its central location and its well-developed logistics infrastructure, Flanders is a key player in importing goods for distribution within the wider European market. Consequently, it has drafted a flexible set of rules applicable to the importing and distribution of goods. As Belgium is a member of the EU – the world’s largest single market with 490 million consumers – you can obtain Euro-wide import and distribution rulings. These are linked to customs legislation from the Belgian customs authorities. The EU also has standing agreements with many countries and country groups outside Europe, including a system of preferred tariffs.

5. Diverse tax benefits and fiscal incentives

Businesses wishing to invest in Flanders are actively encouraged by the federal and regional governments. In addition to cash grants, various kinds of incentives are available for the recruitment and training of personnel or to drive research and development. Tax-related incentives complement the interesting package of stimuli. Proof of Flanders’ pro-business spirit is the recent launch of two unique fiscal measures. Under the unique system of ‘notional interest deduction’, companies can deduct risk capital from their gross taxable profits. A second key development is the dividend withholding tax exemption for dividend payments made to corporate shareholders resident in a signatory country. The authorities have more measures in the pipeline to strengthen companies’ capital base and to attract inward investment.

6. First-class business environment

Entrepreneurial spirit is deeply rooted in Flanders’ culture. For centuries, the region has occupied a strategically important position and played a key role at the crossroads of European trade. Today, it offers businesses a stable, market-driven economy and all the advantages of a Euro currency nation. The Flemish people are renowned for their cross-border flexibility and understanding of what today’s business world demands. They fluently combine technology or scientific smarts with entrepreneurial skills. In addition, the cosmopolitan nature of cities, such as Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent, combined with the large number of foreign companies in Flanders, has added to the international business culture in the region.

7. High density of knowledge clusters

Flanders has a ready-to-hand, skilled and motivated pool of talent. Because Flemish people live right on a nodal point where Europe’s three major cultural and language groups meet, they are multilingual. Quite a few people here fluently speak Belgium’s three official languages – Flemish, French and German –, with English rating as a ‘virtual’ fourth. This impressive skills base is underpinned by an exceptional education system that places Flanders at the top of the world rankings. In the 2006 Global Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum, Flanders ranked 13th for the availability of scientists and engineers and scored a full 10 marks in respect of its management schools, its education system and the availability of research and training departments. What stood out, in particular, was a lofty third place in mathematics and science education. Furthermore, Flanders’ traditional ethic of hard work has resulted in one of the world’s most productive workforces; one of the few European workforces to outperform the US in terms of productivity. Moreover, the workforce is loyal to the employers. A modern infrastructure and flexible labour organizations ensure that few days are lost to industrial disputes.

8. High quality of life for expat employees

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy … Flanders’ high quality of life offers plenty of opportunities for ‘play’ and relaxation. The region offers expatriate families an exceptionally high standard of living with a wide range of quality choices in healthcare and education as well as a whole gamut of leisure activities in the arts, sports and other fields, to suit every taste. And, last but not least, Flanders has long been associated with great food, gourmet beers and exquisite Belgian chocolates …