Although neither the largest nor the most populous province in the Netherlands, fDi's European Cities and Regions of the Future 2014/15 ranking shows that North Brabant has become something of an FDI powerhouse. The categories in which North Brabant, or Brabant as it is more commonly known, has thrived include economic potential, infrastructure, human capital and lifestyle.

"I am very proud of the excellent fDi rankings for Brabant. Above all it is a valuable confirmation that our ‘Brabant approach’ is proving successful. In Brabant, entrepreneurs, [those in] education and government collaborate in national and international networks to stimulate innovative entrepreneurship,” says Bert Pauli, Brabant's vice-governor in charge of economic and international affairs. "Due to this unique collaboration, Brabant is one of Europe’s top regions for innovation and knowledge, resulting in an inspiring business climate for investors,” adds Mr Pauli.

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Data from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets shows that in the past 10 years, more than 160 companies have chosen Brabant as the site for their foreign expansion, investing in excess of $1bn and creating 3500 jobs.

Leading performer

With 8% of Brabant's GDP allocated to R&D, and the region ranking as one of Europe's top locations for patent density, it is somewhat fitting that its largest metro area is known as Brainport Eindhoven. “Investing in Brainport Eindhoven is more than investing in state-of-the-art technology and design. It is investing in the future," says Rob Van Gijzel, the mayor of Eindhoven. Thanks to its high-tech prowess, between 2003 and 2013 Brainport Eindhoven attracted more than one-quarter of all investments located in Brabant, according to fDi Markets.

But Eindhoven is not the only hub of FDI activity in the region. Other popular locations in the province for crossborder investment include Breda, Tilburg, Moerdijk, Den Bosch and Oosterhout, which accounted for 40% of all investments made into Brabant between 2003 and 2013. Companies that have recently decided to settle in this location come from sectors including logistics, life sciences, automotives, chemical and software & IT.

Tesla Motors, an American electric car manufacturer, in its press release announcing an opening of an assembly plant in Tilburg, describes the location as “ideal, considering its proximity to the port of Rotterdam and the high quality and availability of transportation infrastructure. An excellent rail and motorway network connects Tilburg to all major markets.”

Precise strategy

But infrastructure, labour pool and location aside, Brabant also benefits from a well-engineered strategy of crossborder investment attraction, spearheaded by the foreign investments department of Brabant Development Agency (BOM). Indeed, according to fDi's European Cities and Regions of the Future 2014/15 ranking, Brabant is the best mid-sized region in Europe in terms of FDI strategy. The judging panel praised BOM's ongoing monitoring and visits at existing foreign investment ventures and the help the agency offers foreign workers and companies to obtain necessary permits and information enabling them to commence operations in the region smoothly.

Hugh Berry, logistics services manager for Europe at Illinois-headquartered medical supplies firm Hollister, is among investors who benefited from BOM's help, as his company chose Brabant for its European distribution centre in 2008. “You would not believe the amount of knowledge that BOM has, and the networks that it has access to. BOM pointed us towards a number of engineers, of which we eventually chose Groenewout. It supervised the entire organisation of the construction,” says Mr Berry.

The cost of this report was underwritten by BOM Foreign Investments. Reporting and editing were carried out independently by fDi Magazine.