Farewell Wim | 9/5/2017

Wim Van Cauteren and his lovely wife Luciana have been beATLe fans as soon as beATL started its journey in June 2014.  For sure we will miss seeing them around!

Wim has been appointed as Trade Commissioner for Flanders & Brussels in Mexico-City where he will work at the Belgian Embassy.  There are a lot of economic links between the US and Mexico which has adopted a lot of American business practices while keeping its Latin flavor.   Also Mexico has, apart from Brazil, the largest economy in Latin-America offering many unexplored opportunities that Wim is excited about.

Luciana and Wim are fluent in Spanish, making the move to such a beautiful country even more attractive; they are both really looking forward to live there.

Wim started working for Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) in June 1998.   His first posting was Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; that was followed by a 7-year stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  After Argentina, he went back to Brussels for 2 1/2 years – at FIT’s headquarters, and since 2012, Atlanta became their new home.

His main activities is to give support to Flemish & Brussels export companies, that want to expand into the (Southern) USA.  On the other hand, he also detects US companies that want to cross the Atlantic and invest in Europe which explains why you could see him at numerous conferences, events and exhibitions.

He was also the co-organizer of three large trade missions in his jurisdiction: two Flemish-Dutch trade missions (one to Houston, TX and one to Atlanta, GA) and one Belgian Economic Mission to Texas.

What he loves about his job is getting positive feedback from Belgian and local companies, industry associations and government representatives but the icing on the cake is when a company secures a contract thanks to his introduction!

Wim will never forget the day and night of January 28 in 2014 when a snow and ice storm hit Atlanta!  Here is his story: ‘that night we were organizing a reception for Belgian businessmen that participated at the International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, so we could not leave the office early.  We left the office at 11 PM thinking that by that time the highways would be clear. Wrong ! I-75 north was still clogged with cars and there was a complete stand still. We got off the freeway, but we got lost somewhere in midtown and we feared we would have to overnight in our car with freezing temperatures outside. Luckily a Good Samaritan found us and was so nice to give us a ride back to my office in downtown Atlanta. At the office, we had to make a makeshift bed, made of tapestries and old carpets, but we were so happy that we didn’t have to sleep in the car.’

He will always enjoy and feel proud with the headline on the VRT (Flemish Public Television) news that stated that the first joint Flemish-Dutch economic mission in Houston, TX was a success. After several months of preparation, it was very rewarding.

If you ask Wim about his personal best moments in Atlanta, he will tell you about the Sun Dial restaurant in the Westin-hotel downtown where he had a birthday dinner with Luciana … but what made it very special is that on that rainy day, the view was nonexistent giving them the impression of having dinner in the clouds.   And the Belgian beers at the Brick Store Pub will remain a very good souvenir.

His last day in Atlanta is on September 15 … and no, the name of his successor is not known yet.   Check the blog again soon.

Join Flanders Investment & Trade and the Belgian American Chamber of the South on Tuesday, September 5th, so you too can thank Wim for all the great work he has done in the Southeast, wish him all the best on his new mission in Mexico and say goodbye to this super nice couple.


  • When: Tuesday, September 5th, 2017 from 6.30 – 8.30 pm
  • Where: Burr & Forman LLP171 17th Street Northwest – 11th floor, Atlanta, GA 30363
  • RSVP by Sept 1st, 2017


Economic Mission overview

Atlanta was busy a couple of weeks ago (4-7 Oct) … an abundance of Belgians [and Dutch citizens] flooded our Jackson International Airport for a three-day trade and economic mission.  A combo of 85 Flanders-Dutch companies represented by 142 humans (of which 27 Flemish companies – 39 people) made the trip to seek opportunities, interested in learning strategies, and to participate in seminars and various panels.  Many visits to local companies were also on the schedule: Coca-Cola, Delta, Graphic Packaging, Infor, Interface, ICE (Intercontinental Exchange), Mohawk, Barco, Bekaert, and UPS to just name a few. Even if the goal of the trip was purely business, the atmosphere was jovial [although at some occasions one had to be dead-serious] and the feedback was super enthusiastic.  Of course, we are ‘the next Silicon Valley“!

At the head of the crowd, our Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte teamed up as a perfect pair.  Mr. Bourgeois was accompanied by Pascal Walrave, Advisor Foreign Policy, Benjamin Muylaert, his Spokesperson and was greeted upon arrival [or soon after] by Belgian Ambassador to the United States, Johan Verbeke, Claire Tillekaerts, CEO Flanders Investment & Trade, Geert De Proost, General Representative of the Government of Flanders to the U.S., Consul General of Belgium in Atlanta, Genevieve Verbeek, and Investment & Trade Commissioner, Wim Van Cauteren.

Journalists from Het Nieuwsblad, Belga and VRT were covering the ‘story’, following the two Gentlemen like their shadow … Other news organs published articles too … Read moremore and more.

Here is my version of the facts … Feel free to like, comment and forward this blog post!  Would be good to hear from you…

Monday 5 – There was no better way – except for the weather – to start the busy schedule with a visit to the The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center site.  Escorted by Ambassador Andrew Young, our Flemish Minister-President Geert Bourgeois and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte were welcomed by Dr. Bernice A. King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Chief Executive Officer of the center. For the occasion, below the United States flag, The Netherlands and Flanders colors were flying proudly, making it all very official.   The group strolled down ‘Freedom Walkway’ and paid homage to the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by laying a wreath at the King’s memorial. During the event, the Econ-Mission was also greeted by a group of 40 children from the Flemish-Dutch school The Molenwiek. Three paragraphs from  of Annie MG Schmidt ‘s Avonds laat were read by Cezanne, Xue-Ann and the final part was read by the 9-year old Amelie from Dessel (Belgium) …  Her typical accent put a bright smile on Mr. Bourgeois’ face.  Our officials took some time to chat with the children. – Thank you beATLe Petra for the info.  Read more and more.

The long day came to an end with an informal BBQ and an official kick-off at Mission’s hotel, the InterContinental Buckhead.

Tuesday 6 – Early start …. A 7.30 am-breakfast at the Hotel Intercontinental with a brochette of Dutch and Flemish entrepreneurs. The goal was for the MPs – who were welcomed by Ambassador Schuwer – to get a good look and feel of the business environment of Atlanta, its climate and the interface with the Dutch and Flemish governments.   Among the panel, you will recognize our local Belgians (and beATL-fans): Stephan de Mulder (Aluvision), Geert Beerens (Delta Engineering), Brigitte Pelleman (Unibind),  Franky Oorreel (Boplan) and Timothy  Steleman (Delaware Consulting). Claire Tillekaerts from FIT (Flanders Investment and Trade) closed the session at 9 am.

They joined “The Internet of Finance, Innovation in Financial Services and Cyber Security” seminar where Johan Hermans from CSI Tools (Herent, BE) spoke about big data analytics and crime detection/prevention.

They ended up their morning attending a closed roundtable ‘The Role of Flagship Companies & Incubators in Succesful Knowledge Regions’ before heading to The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce where Industry leaders, experts and policymakers from The Netherlands, Flanders and Georgia [including Piet Demunter, Director Strategic Development at Brussels Airport Company] discussed the latest trends in Multi-modal Transport Corridors and Last mile logistics during the conference ‘Innovations in Gateway Logistics – The Georgia and Netherlands/Flanders Experience’.

A well deserved digestive stroll through Centennial Park with representatives from the Atlanta Board of Tourism was led by Joe Skopitz, before being dropped off at the Coca Cola‘s Headquarters where they met with Clyde Tuggle, Senior VP and Chief Public Affairs, and Scott Figura, Global Director of Productivity.  Their first stop was the Board Room before enjoying more meetings on supply chain management and smart logistics.  After the serious part, most were’temporarily held up’ in the gift shop … the fabulous polar bear was the #1 purchase and was carried off, nicely tucked away in the recognizable red and white plastic bags.

They spent their mid-afternoon with Governor  Nathan Deal and the First Lady at a Remembrance Ceremony at the North Wing of Georgia Capitol.  Wreaths were laid at the World War I and World War II memorials in honor of Georgians who fought during those wars. The Prime Minister and Minister-President also honored the Georgians who fought alongside Dutch and Belgian troops in recent wars in Korea, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dinner time!  All to the Atlanta History Center for a huge reception followed by a formal dinner hosted by Mayor Kasim Reed.   The event started with a signing ceremony to solidify new partnerships between the City of Atlanta and the Netherlands-Flanders Delta region. The 300-crowd were split among 29 round tables and served a 3-course menu. Read more and more.

Wednesday 7  – A serious start with a seminar at the Federal Reserve Bank Atlanta: ‘The Impact of Emerging Technologies & Cyber Security on the Financial Services Industry‘ where our VIP’s met with Dennis Lockhart, President and CEO, and signed a memorandum of understanding to share information in the area of financial services.

After lunch, the Flemish and the Dutch split up for the remainder of the day.  Mr. Bourgeois drove to Rome to attend the re-opening of the Bekaert plant which had suffered from a major fire last year.

Beating the heavy traffic, the Bourgeois-convoy reached its final destination of its mission:  Aluvision in Duluth. The Flemish company from Deinze officially inaugurated its US headquarters where Mr Bourgeois deftly handled the scissors and cut the red ribbon. It was very important to Mr. Bourgeois to show his support, since he was the one who personally handed the owners, Ann Vancoillie and Dirk Deleu, the ‘Export Lion‘  2015 [the annual prize awarded by Flanders Investment & Trade to Flemish companies that achieved most success in terms of export during the previous year].  Read more and more.

In the late evening, Mr. Bourgeois jumped on his plane to fly back to Belgium via Amsterdam. Thus came the short, fruitful, exciting and exhausting visit – well organized by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) and Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO) – to an end.

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