Among other dignitaries, Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and US Ambassador to Belgium Howard W. Gutman were on hand to press the red button – literally – that marked the official opening of the new facility.
The new distribution center, which employs 115 people, centralizes the activities of 15 existing logistics centers in a single location. Medicines will be sent from production sites around Europe to La Louvière, and from there around the world. Once it is up and running at full capacity, the center will process 385,000 orders per year and ship 160 million units.
With this investment, Janssen Pharmaceutica has, in effect, voted for Belgium with its wallet for the second time in recent years – the company also operates a distribution center for medical devices and diagnostics in nearby Courcelles. As Jean-Claude Marcourt, Vice-Minister President of Wallonia and the French Community, said, “The first time is maybe a chance, the second not. This kind of strategic decision is never a coincidence.” Why then Belgium, and why Wallonia in particular?
Heyman named many factors, ranging from good infrastructure and access to transport links (major highways, airports and ports) to Belgium’s central location and close proximity to important markets like France and Germany. He did not deny the significant contribution received from the regional government – €11 million of a total investment of €49 million.
Discussing the pharmaceutical sector more broadly, Prime Minister Di Rupo insisted on the human element, “the talent, the industriousness of [Belgium’s] workers and the intelligence, the know-how of [Belgium’s] researchers.” Indeed, according to Heyman, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceutica’s parent company, views Belgium as a “very good place to invest” for research and development as well as manufacturing.
Janssen Pharmaceutica’s new facility in La Louvière not only demonstrates in very concrete terms the importance of the pharmaceutical sector in Belgium, but also the importance of logistics. Marcourt cited a report by Cushman & Wakefield which lists Wallonia as the top region for logistics in all of continental Europe.
Janssen Pharmaceutica, founded by Dr. Paul Janssen in Turnhout in 1953, was purchased by Johnson & Johnson in 1961. Today, it gives its name to all of the pharmaceutical undertakings of its parent company. In Belgium alone, Janssen Pharmaceutica employs more than 4,000 people and has an annual turnover exceeding €2 billion.
Concluding his remarks, Ambassador Gutman stressed the importance of these companies to the US-Belgian relationship: “Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceutica are among those at the top of the list of ambassadors who build and rebuild the bridge between Belgium and the United States while they build a better future for Belgian workers, for US workers and for consumers worldwide.”by Daniel Pyster, Communications Manager, AmCham Belgium