Dirk Deleu and Ann Vancoillie are no strangers to awards having won many since 1994 when they launched Creaplan NV in Belgium, which conceptualizes and builds stands, displays and interiors for companies promoting their wares and services at trade shows around the world.
In 2013, Ms. Vancoillie was handed the “Womed Award” by Queen Mathilde of Belgium as the best Belgian female entrepreneur, and for a year held the title, “Ambassador of Female Entrepreneurship.”
The success of Creaplan led the enterprising couple in 2003 to launch Aluvision, which also targets the trade show business by providing an aluminum frame system for interior exhibits and showrooms.
Once again, the awards came rolling in. Aluvision has won prestigious design awards, such as the RedDot Award in 2014 and the iF Design Award earlier this year.
But it was Aluvision’s “Export Lion” award that was responsible for Flanders’ Minister-President Geert Bourgeois making the extra trek on Oct. 7 at the end of a three-day trade mission to Atlanta to Satellite Boulevard in Gwinnett County for the opening of Aluvision’s new North American headquarters.
Mr. Bourgeois led the joint Flemish-Dutch trade mission, Oct. 5-7, with Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, focused on financial technology, cybersecurity and what the delegation called “smart” logistics.
The “Export Lion” is the annual prize awarded by Flanders Investment & Trade to Flemish companies that have been most successful in terms of driving exports during the previous year. Aluvision received the award in the Belgian city of Leuven for a company with less than 50 employees.
A surprisingly spry Mr. Bourgeois, who had braved end-of-the-day traffic on I-85 and three days full of meetings, said he was very pleased to be at the opening ceremony since he had personnaly handed over the Export Lion award to Aluvision just a couple of weeks before. He emphasized that Flemish exports are not only “vitally necessary,” but also a main objective of his economic agenda.
Aluvision’s interest in the U.S. was spurred by Stephan De Mulder, the senior account director, who started his career at Aluvision five years ago and traveled to the U.S. four or five times a year to visit existing customers or new prospects.
“If we want to really grow the business in the U.S., we have to be on the ground,” he told the co-owners, who eventually agreed and encouraged him to find a space large enough to start up a local production unit.
Mr. De Mulder began his U.S. foray seriously two years ago when he brought his wife, Elien De Winter, and his young son, Gilou, to Atlanta and worked out of a sales office in Alpharetta.
He later told Global Atlanta that he decided to settle in Atlanta because of its presence on the East Coast with a time difference of only six hours from his headquarters in Deinze, and because of the presence of the Port of Savannah and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The Gwinnett location was determined with the assistance of the Cognegy consulting firm and officials from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and Partnership Gwinnett.
The 30,000-square-foot facility housing Aluvision’s new offices will also include a large showroom, allowing existing and potential customers to experience the wide range of Aluvision’s custom modular product offerings.
Meanwhile, Mr. De Mulder will continue to develop new business by attending trade shows to prospect for new clients.
To reach Mr. De Mulder, call (646) 736-7317, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org