The Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation hosted more than a dozen Belgian technology companies Wednesday as part of an international business mission.
Matt Prochaska, president and CEO of BVEDC, said it’s a “trade mission” with the concept of locating business opportunities in the Brazos Valley for Belgium companies to expand their operations.
Interests range from research and testing purposes, talent, supply chains and expansion of their customer base, Prochaska said. The BVEDC International Gateway program offers companies a “soft landing” as they get established to do business in Texas and the Brazos Valley, Prochaska said. Building relations through these business missions also provides Texas and Brazos Valley companies opportunities overseas in Belgium.
“When you think about some of our strengths from engineering, defense, manufacturing, advance manufacturing, our bio space technology, all of that fits in really well with their partnership and our partnership with them, so we’re continuing to see growth in that relationship,” Prochaska said.
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Prochaska said the interest from Belgian companies not only benefits the economy, but drives awareness to the international diversity of the community. International companies are seeing the benefits of doing business in Texas, a state that has one of the largest economies in the world that’s ripe for growth, Prochaska said.
“Not just any kind of growth, but the right kind of growth with higher-paying jobs, technological advancements and more opportunities generationally to have a higher quality of life for our residents here in the Brazos Valley,” he said. “That is really my end goal, to provide that job creation and opportunity for the next generation and the generation that follows.”
Philippe Lachapelle, director of technical partnerships and networks of innovation at Walloon Export and Foreign Investment Agency (AWEX) started the international mission after a meeting at Texas A&M University. Since the first mission began in 2009 over 300 companies have come to the Brazos Valley, with some establishing local businesses, Lachapelle said.
Lachapelle called the business missions a “win-win relationship” with Belgium companies creating new jobs and opportunities in the region while benefiting from Texas A&M’s relationship with IP’s and commercialization research to determine the marketability of their technologies.
“Brazos Valley has been an extraordinary partner for us over the years and we cannot thank them enough. Not only the university, but the Brazos Valley Economic Development Corporation,” Lachapelle said.
Among those in attendance was Belgium software company Lisam Systems, which created its second branch in Bryan-College Station on a joint venture with Texas A&M in 2010. Lisam Systems develops software for chemical companies to produce safety documents and labels for the chemicals they put on the market. Texas A&M exited the company after five years, however helped it grow to five employees; today the company has 10 employees, Lisam Systems founder Michel Hemberg said.
“We have a good turnover of about $4 million and we have 200 customers in the U.S. We have a big chemical company working for us and we are still willing to expand, so we are still investing on the U.S. market in order to find new plants and develop the company,” Hemberg said.
Hemberg said he attended the event to share his expertise and experience working with Texas A&M and AWEX. As a growing company, Hemberg said it’s important and mandatory to find a connection and a safe place to settle the business.
“We had the chance that Andrew Nelson, who is now mayor of Bryan, was looking for a job at the time. He was someone getting expertise in software companies and he took the challenge of developing our business,” Hemberg said. “This is thanks to the connection that we got from Texas A&M University.”