At the Flanders International Business Awards, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) will be awarding three companies that help put Flanders on the map, including a top foreign investor in the region. But what characterizes the ideal Foreign Investor of the Year candidate? John Verzeele, Director Inward Investment at FIT, spells out the definition. If reading it feels like looking in the mirror, be sure to enter the contest. 

Positive impact reigns supreme  

For companies to be shortlisted as a Foreign Investor of the Year nominee, a professional jury will evaluate the entries. What are they looking for?  

John: “The jury will be assessing a broad range of criteria to determine if and how a foreign company strives to have a positive impact in Flanders’ economic ecosystem. Does the foreign investment project add high economic value? Does it match with and strengthen Flanders’ strategic sectors or innovation domains? Does it focus on the long term? Is there an innovative component to it? Does it pay attention to sustainability? Does the foreign investor embed itself within Flanders’ ecosystem by working together across company walls? The list goes on.” 

The how trumps the what  

Will the jury also look at the figures?  

John: “Of course, but that doesn’t mean that smaller projects can’t be winners. For example, the total investment amount and local job creation are important parameters to consider, but they don’t tell the entire story. The jury doesn’t just look at what foreign companies do in Flanders, but also at how they do it. Overall, the goal is to celebrate a foreign investor that is robust, strengthens Flanders and vice versa, and works in a socially responsible way.”  

More than just an award  

Besides the Foreign Investor of the Year title, what’s in it for companies deciding to enter the competition?  

John: “Making it onto the shortlist of the Flanders International Business Awards is like receiving a stamp of approval from the government of Flanders on the highest possible level, demonstrating their recognition and appreciation for your company's contributions. It's an opportunity to stand out and be celebrated for your investment efforts in Flanders.  

What’s more, being nominated or crowned Foreign Investor of the Year establishes a strong bond between your company and Flanders’ government. It opens doors for collaboration and networking opportunities while facilitating access to resources, incentives and support. This connection can be invaluable for future business endeavors.”  

Does the contest also help foreign companies integrate into the local ecosystem?  

John: “Absolutely! Being in the running for the Foreign Investor of the Year award instantly places your company in the spotlight, gaining attention from local businesses, industry leaders and potential partners. It showcases your company’s expertise, values and commitment to the local community, establishing trust and credibility. This paves the way for collaborations, joint ventures, strategic partnerships and other mutually beneficial relationships with other companies already embedded in Flanders’ thriving business and innovation ecosystem.  

"Both the competition and the Foreign Investor of the Year title can act as a powerful networking and marketing tool, both in and beyond Flanders."
John Verzeele
Director Inward Investment at FIT

But there’s more. Being shortlisted or winning is also an asset for employer branding and talent acquisition in Flanders’ job market. It amplifies your reputation as an exceptional employer, attracting top talent and skilled professionals eager to work with an esteemed organization. This is especially useful for foreign companies setting foot on Flanders’ soil for the first time and looking to hire their very first employees while still being relatively unknown locally.  

In short, both the competition and the Foreign Investor of the Year title act as a powerful networking and marketing tool, both in and beyond Flanders.”