In international business, companies seek the competitive advantage of locating near their target market. In 2017, Westfield, Indiana welcomed a new resident with this goal in mind -- AeroFilm Systems, Inc. The Dutch engineering company designs, develops, and manufactures air casters and air caster transport systems. It selected Indiana as its base to reach the U.S. market.
What are air casters… and why the U.S.?
AeroFilm Systems produces devices that use compressed air to create a thin air film between the floor and the items they carry. The technique, often compared to a hovercraft, allows an air caster to float a fraction of a millimeter above the floor, enabling it to carry extremely heavy loads.
The company has been in business for over 35 years, with headquarters in the Netherlands and branches in the United Kingdom and Germany. While it was successful in Europe, the company found that its distance from the U.S. prevented it from reaching prospective American customers. Their interest to migrate grew after company data showed that 50 percent of visitors to their website came from the U.S.
Ultimately, a close family friend of the company’s founder helped AeroFilm Systems select Westfield as its new base. That friend had successfully relocated to Westfield from the Netherlands 20 years prior, and now owns Affco Machine Sales, Westfield. Michiel Driessen, the company’s technical application specialist, moved to Indiana in 2018 to launch the company’s U.S. operations.
“I’ve enjoyed every single day I’ve been here (Indiana),” said Driessen. He noted that Indiana is strategically located in an area that boasts affordable cost of living and high quality of life. The region provides a stable regulatory environment and advocates for pro-business growth.
AeroFilm Systems is in good company – over 330 foreign-owned firms currently operate in the nine-county Indy Region.
“We are actively working to bring innovative companies, like Aerofilm, to Westfield,” said Mayor Andy Cook. “We have a lot to offer from a business standpoint but we are also selling the “community spirit” that we are building. We want companies, like Aerofilm, to grow with the city and become part of the fabric of our community.”
Tackling challenges across markets
Moving forward, the company’s biggest challenge is building understanding and recognition of its product.
“Worldwide we have the same problem,” said Driessen. “Eighty percent of the world don’t know that our product (air casters) exist”.
To address these challenges, AeroFilm Systems does demonstrations and marketing of its products through online and print channels. Moving forward, they plan to focus on serving specific industries, such as renewable wind and power, cable manufacturers, cleanrooms and entertainment) and build the base from there.
“I am hopeful that the City of Westfield can support AeroFilm now and in to the future as it grows,” said Mayor Cook. “They have a great product that can be a game changer for a variety of sectors. We are excited to be a part of their story and to help tell that story.”