Government and corporate leaders from Belgium and Flanders joined Bekaert executives Wednesday to formally reopen the company’s steel wire plant in Rome.
The plant was damaged in a November, 2014, fire but resumed production this summer.
Geert Bourgeois, minister-president of the government of Flanders, in the northern region of Belgium, told a large crowd gathered in front of the newly rebuilt plant that Bekaert is a world leader.
“Through Bekaert engineering and Bekaert technology, we export our top-notch technology and distinguishing designs to countries worldwide,” Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois said he has been impressed with the dynamic and entrepreneurial spirit of Georgians he has met in the past week.
“We selected Georgia as the gateway to the United States and the Netherlands and Flanders are the gateway to Europe,” Bourgeois said. He said that future cooperation would focus on financial technology, cyber security and smart logistics.
Bekaert CEO Matthew Taylor issued thank you after thank you to the Rome-Floyd Fire Department, the Rome Police Department, and the production team at Bekaert.
He issued a special thank you to the Bekaert customers. “It’s been a tough year for us. Knowing that you were committed to be with us, that you stayed with us through difficult times, you worked with us to make solutions happen and you’ve stood by us as we built the factory,” Taylor said.
Taylor thanked the employees at Bekaert for helping to establish “the world class benchmark for bead wire in the entire industry.”
States Rep. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, read a letter of congratulations from Gov. Nathan Deal, and Rome Mayor Jamie Doss thanked Bekaert executives for two major commitments to the local community.
The company decided to upgrade the technology at the Rome plant and was just beginning that $29 million upgrade when the fire started.
Doss pointed out that the company was also committed to rebuilding in Rome. Subsequently, Bekaert received an additional $16 million bond package from the Rome-Floyd County Development Authority to help pay for reconstruction of the fire damaged section of the plant. Other dignitaries on hand were Johan Verbeke, Belgian ambassador to the U.S.; Genevieve Verbeek, consul general of Belgium to the Southeast and Claire Tillekaerts, CEO of Flanders Investment and Trade.
Plant officials provided a tour of the plant, which makes bead wire used in tires, and hose wire used in a variety of applications, including the automotive industry.