The first mission this year was in March. It was the first AWEX-led, in-person mission to the Brazos Valley since the start of the pandemic.
"Each time we are in the community, we can feel the energy of the Brazos Valley environment and how companies would feel at home with the help of the BVEDC, TEES, and their partners," said AWEX Director of Innovation Philippe Lachapelle.
Companies visiting as part of this, the 14th mission to the Brazos Valley, have focuses on a wide range of technology efforts, including kidney health devices, spacecraft components, fire detectors, wearable rescue devices, and information-displaying glasses.
Each mission sees Belgian company representatives meeting with local business, higher education and community leaders as they seek information about the Brazos Valley and why doing business here is advantageous. The majority of meetings took place in the meeting spaces of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, with additional gatherings held at various Texas A&M and community locations.
“The technology mission to Texas from Belgium is a critical global partnership opportunity for Texas A&M Engineering’s research enterprise by identifying collaborative research and development areas, creation of start-ups, and exchange of talent,” said TEES Executive Director of Commercialization & Entrepreneurship Dr. Saurabh Biswas. “These opportunities further our key mission to advance research, innovation and workforce development.”
“Once again, the community is a shining light to the world from a business and economic perspective,” said BVEDC President/CEO Matt Prochaska. “We’re also extremely grateful to the Cities of Bryan and College Station, Brazos County, Texas A&M University and our private industries under the Invest Brazos Valley banner for their continued collaboration in this strategic partnership.”
Delegates and the Brazos Valley community took time to celebrate Belgium-based gas chromatography company Orthodyne, which launched its U.S. subsidiary in College Station in November 2021. Offices and a laboratory in the Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TIPS) were ceremonially opened on the first day of the mission.
Thanks to its partnership with Texas A&M, Orthodyne officials say they have a full commercial capacity and the ability to serve their customers with testing and repairs. They add that projects and orders are increasing, and they anticipate even more growth, especially with the semiconductor market taking greater root in Texas. With growth exceeding expectations, Orthodyne hopes to employ more technicians and technical salespeople by year’s end.
"Texas is where our customers are," said Orthodyne General Manager Eric Streel. "Here in the U.S., most of our customers are based in Austin and Houston and Dallas. Being in College Station, in this Texas Triangle in the middle of the three cities, it was the perfect spot."
According to Streel, the Board of Orthodyne decided to create a U.S. subsidiary in July 2020. For the remainder of the year, AWEX worked with the company to develop its network in the U.S., and in early 2021, the BVEDC assisted Orthodyne to establish itself in America through the International Gateway program. The U.S. company was incorporated in March 2021, with the lab space at TIPS secured in March 2022.
“They could have gone everywhere in the U.S., but they made contacts at Texas A&M and in the Brazos Valley community as well," Lachapelle said. "They are going to hire local people, and they have a very special technology they are bringing to the community that didn’t exist before. That’s the kind of relationship we want to build.”
The BVEDC joined in the ceremonial opening, with Board of Directors Chair Elect Katherine Kleemann bringing greetings and congratulations on behalf of the organization.
Why Do Business Here?
Whether domestic or global entrepreneurs are exploring their market opportunities or going forward to establish a presence in the U.S. economy or beyond, the customized, value-added business virtualization services of the International Gateway streamline the complexities of launching, investing and developing customers in the U.S. and around the world.
Orthodyne joins a list of Belgian companies from previous missions now doing business in the U.S. through the Brazos Valley that includes Lisam, Volition and Revatis. Lachapelle says he is confident companies on this mission could find that similar pathway.
Belgian missions to the area, spearheaded by Lachapelle and AWEX, began in 2009. More than 300 companies having taken part since the start.
“The mission is anchored in a strong history of foreign direct investment and job creation,” Prochaska said. “Plus, there is so much more to this mission in terms of the quality relationships, quality of life and creating an atmosphere conducive to growth.”
Beyond building the business connections, late 2014 saw a significant show of friendship in conjunction with the 70th anniversary of World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. A museum exhibit titled “Texas Aggies Go to War” was opened in Bastogne, Belgium spotlighting American service and sacrifice. It centered around the stories of Texas A&M University graduates who fought to save Belgium. A delegation of Brazos Valley leaders made the trip to celebrate the exhibit, which was visited by Belgium’s King Phillippe and Queen Mathilde.
In 2016, Belgium’s Princess Astrid headed up a group from her nation which visited Texas, including the Brazos Valley, over eight days. The sister of King Phillippe and the second child of King Albert II and Queen Paola returned to the U.S. in June of this year, with Brazos Valley representatives traveling to Atlanta, Georgia to help welcome her back to the country.
Because of the global pandemic preventing travel between the two nations, the annual mission went virtual in 2020, with the Brazos Valley still spotlighted through video meetings. The in-person mission set for Fall 2021 was moved to March 2022, also due to the pandemic.