Integrating, blending in, embedding yourself in your new region and community – it’s not always obvious for the dozens of new companies that come to Brainport Eindhoven from far away places like Brazil, India or even Australia. That’s exactly why Brainport development invited all the newly settled people and companies to a special meet & greet before this year’s New Horizon New Year’s reception.
Not only did they get the opportunity to get to know each other better, but of course this also was about their introduction to the broader Brainport network. Where else would they be able to get a personal guide in a meeting where no less than 1,500 representatives of the most important companies, knowledge institutes and governmental organizations from the Brainport Network were present? Around forty of last year’s new settlers grabbed the opportunity.
They were welcomed by vice-mayor Stijn Steenbakkers (economy, Brainport, innovation, education and sport) who tried to relax his audience with a couple of jokes (“Welcome to the place where you can make as many jokes about Belgians as you like and still be able to enjoy their beers, where every foreigner thinks Copenhagen is your capital and where, when everything goes wrong, you can always still blame the Germans”). On a more serious note, Steenbakkers called the Brainport Eindhoven region the innovation hotspot of the Netherlands. “A flourishing economy and a seven times faster growth have helped the city to become the place-to-be for people like you. We have the bright minds and golden hands that make this happen and you can now be part of it.”
Steenbakkers had a couple of requests for his audience as well. “We can embed your company in this successful region, but we ask something in return. Connect with the local community, support your local clubs. Next to that, please remember that growing business and making a profit is never a goal in itself. Finding solutions for problems of today is what really counts.”
Steenbakkers also introduced “three important organisations” to the new settlers: Brainport Development (Naomie Verstraeten: “we can take care of the introductions you need to grow your business”), the Brabant development agency BOM (Eelko Brinkhoff: “Coming here is one thing, but staying is something else. We know the Dutch investment climate and can service you around housing and investment”), and the Holland Expat Centre South (Kris De Prins: “We are your one-stop-shop for all your formalities around permits”).
After the formal introductions, it was up to Maarten Spijkerman (Tilburg University) to lead a quiz that was supposed to create an atmosphere for discussion. What did we learn? For almost half of the people present, the main motive to move to Eindhoven is the availability of partners, suppliers and customers. Sourcing international tech talent is their biggest challenge. And recruiting talents is now mainly done through referrals and social media.
Yes, the questions really turned out to be triggers for discussion. For example about the role of the spouses (“Especially for them it’s very important to find their way in cultural and sports organizations, to find things to do”), the 30% tax rule (“how can we make use of it?”), the benefit of a career event (“We can organize as many events as you like, but we warn you that it’s much easier to find employers than talents.”)
Finally, there’s always culture as a barrier for blending in. This is especially felt in conversations, as one settler explains: “The Dutch tend to give a narrow answer, the English will give broader ones. The biggest challenge is to know who to ask your question to and how to ask your question.”