Howdy, Partner: Belgian delegation visits Katy looking for business opportunities

By George Slaughter, News Editor
Posted 10/20/22

Katy promotes itself as the hub of three counties. Now it is aiming to be an even bigger hub.

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Howdy, Partner: Belgian delegation visits Katy looking for business opportunities


Katy promotes itself as the hub of three counties. Now it is aiming to be an even bigger hub.

The Katy Area Economic Development Council hosted a Belgian business delegation Oct. 13 at City Hall, where city officials welcomed them before they visited local businesses and attractions.

While this is the first, or at least one of the first, visits by a Belgian delegation to Katy, they are familiar with Texas. Philippe LaChapelle is director of technological and strategic partnerships at Wallonia, an export investment company headquartered in Brussels. LaChapelle said his first visit to Texas was in 2000, but he has been visiting regularly every year since 2005. He guessed he has visited the state close to 40 times. Former Gov. Rick Perry declared LaChapelle an honorary Texan.

LaChapelle said he has become something of an ambassador for Texas.

“But you have to realize that coming from Europe, people don’t naturally think of Texas, and it’s important to explain what’s going on in this great state,” LaChapelle said. “They would go to the East Coast. They would go to the West Coast, but they would not think of the center of the United States. Because, first of all, it’s a long trip to come here. It’s about 10 hours of flight, so you need to come and it’s very important to those companies. It’s a leap of faith definitely that we’ve been advocating saying that Texas was the state on the march it was important to be there as well.”

Yves Dubus is a trade and investment commissioner for Belgium. He has been headquartered in Houston for about 10 years, though his territory covers states north and east of Texas. He also has Katy ties in that his children attended Taylor High School.

“Our economy cannot survive without external links, and the best example for Texas was in 2016,” Dubus said. “We brought a delegation of 240 businessmen strong under the leadership of Princess Astrid and had the pleasure to design her itinerary. We started in Austin. She visited with Gov. Greg Abbott at the time and was received by all the important people there. We organized on-to-one meetings for these people.”

Chuck Martinez, Katy Area EDC president, previously worked for the Bryan-College Station EDC. Dubus said Martinez was active in organizing the Bryan-College Station portion of that trip. Martinez worked with the Belgians to take a look at what Katy has to offer.

“Chuck was involved also for the part when they came to the center of the trip to Bryan-College Station, because of our strong relationship at Texas A&M,” Dubus said. “But she also visited San Antonio and the Alamo and knew all about the history of the independence of Texas, reminding us that the second country internationally to recognize Texas as an independent country was Belgium. The first one was the United States. Belgium, which gained its independence from Holland in 1830, was the second.”

LaChapelle said Belgium presented itself like a well-kept secret.

“We don’t speak enough about ourselves,” La Chapelle said. “We are maybe humble to a fault, and that is definitely something we want to change as well because we definitely have a lot to offer in terms of economic cooperation, of scientific cooperation definitely going on.”

LaChapelle said there is much to be done, and the hope is that new companies will see the potential in partnership.

“This is just the beginning for us, but you have to know that in general we are there to stay,” LaChapelle said. “It’s long-term that we see things, not a quick loan, and that’s the best way to work.”

High-end manufacturing, and the relatively higher paying jobs that come with such industry, is a key goal for Katy’s economic development. Dubus said the delegation would be visiting companies from diverse industries, such as life science and space. He wanted the companies to see the potential connections to do business.

He said another goal is to establish connections on the innovation side.

“We have one of the best deep tech accelerators in the world,” Dubus said, adding that they wanted to establish connections with the University of Houston.

City of Katy, economic development, Belgium, Katy Area EDC


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