"MECHELEN & KEMPEN: FERTILE GROUND FOR START-UPS, SCALE-UPS AND MARKET LEADERS”- TOM LAVEREN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER VOKA - CHAMBER OF COMMERCE MECHELEN-KEMPEN
The Mechelen-Kempen region is ideally located between the port and the airport and close to the two big metropolises of Brussels and Antwerp. It is a place where it is good to live, work and do business. Where craftsmanship is a brand. The region is booming and many fine and innovative companies have established themselves here and are investing heavily in the future, including the country’s largest employers.
Rich economic network
It is our mission as Voka Chamber of Commerce Mechelen-Kempen to help companies grow. We work to stimulate entrepreneurship every day. It is truly an honour to represent the companies in this region as managing director. I am particularly proud of the rich economic network the region has to offer. The four major assets? The central location, the labour productivity, the innovative mindset and last but not least the topnotch companies.
Mechelen-Kempen has a very favourable geographical location between the largest ports and the national airport. As a transit region, four major motorways provide easy access across the country, the waterways ensure smooth inland navigation and an extensive rail network regulates the transport of goods. Goods are stored in numerous distribution centres and moved further in the European Union, and as far as the Middle East and Africa. In MechelenKempen you find the world within reach.
When you compare the gross added value in the region with the number of active employees, you immediately notice the high labour productivity in the region. On average, it is higher in this region than in the rest of the country. Moreover, the manufacturing industry is particularly strong here and is among the best in terms of innovation and highly skilled personnel. Add these ingredients together and you get a region with exceptional economic strengths, know-how and employment.
A smooth flow of knowledge and expertise from higher education to business is crucial for realising breakthroughs in innovation. The presence of leading knowledge institutions such as KU Leuven and Thomas More in the region and the extensive partnerships around entrepreneurship ensure smooth cooperation. New ecosystems are being created every day. Many (tech) start-ups did start in the region. The number of new businesses is rising to a record high and these start-ups are also proving to be
robust. Seven out of ten companies are still active five years later.
Start-ups and icons
As an entrepreneurs’ organisation, Voka represents not only (tech)start-ups, but also a lot of top names in the Mechelen-Kempen region. Pfizer was responsible for the first corona vaccine to come onto the market. Johnson & Johnson (based in Beerse with Janssen Pharmaceutica) quickly followed. Daf Trucks and Van Hool are icons in transport. Renewi and AGC Glass are pioneers in recycling and innovative glass applications respectively. BelOrta is Belgium’s largest fruit and vegetable auction and the European market leader. No other European region has so many agro-food companies. And the Mechelen Kempen region is also the base for multinationals, regional and EMEA distribution centers and European Headquarters such as Mondelez, Griffith Foods, Cargill, Soedal, Nike, Dupont, Novartis and Aurubis. People work hard and embrace productivity here, and the many local small to medium-sized companies form a solid basis for a flourishing future.
There is only one conclusion: the MechelenKempen region is a particularly fertile ground for start-ups, scale-ups and market leaders. I am therefore very pleased that we, as the largest interest group, can defend, strengthen and connect these companies with each other.
Tom Laveren has been managing Voka – Chamber of Commerce Mechelen-Kempen since 2019. Before, he had a successful career at e.g. Nike and Tabaknatie in the Port of Antwerp. Now, his committed to putting Mechelen and Kempen economically on the map. Tom is married to Lies and has three children. In his spare time he enjoys travelling, sailing and skiing, as well as spending time with family and friends.