- This week, Geert Braaksma is stepping down as chairman of the Twente Board
- Geert receives a golden honourary pin, which makes him a “Trotse Tukker”
- The “Braaksma era” is an important one for Twente; Geert has worked hard for the region for years, without receiving any pay.
Geert Braaksma is Tukker in heart and soul. He was born and raised on a farm in Friesland. He now lives in the picturesque city of Delden, together with his American wife, Carolyn. His Frisian genes turned out to be a great combination with the mentality in Twente. It is not about whether he feels at home among the Tukkers; he is a Tukker. There is no doubt. His personality, his character and his enormous drive brought Twente further. He brought Twente into contact with the world, and the world with Twente.
“He often talks about his childhood on the farm”, says his colleague Erdo Smit, strategic management consultant at the municipality of Enschede. The world view that arose there is perhaps why his love for our region is so great. Geert has always wanted to protect the nature in Twente; he loves the beauty of the countryside. He also shows his love for beauty and culture through his participation in HeartPool. For Geert, art does not only have its artistic value, but it also has a socio-economic value. A flourishing cultural landscape is of great importance for the business climate, competitiveness and employment of the region.
Focused on the future, Geert made a passionate contribution to many initiatives in Twente. More than once, he was the initiator of Twente solutions to global problems. His friends and colleagues unanimously describe him as a pragmatic and steadfast man. He is a real go-getter with a sense of humour and self-mockery, which helps him put both prosperity and adversity into perspective.
Geert has built up a beautiful career in Twente. Highlights include his role as CEO at Sensata, previously known as Texas Instruments. The iconic company building was built in Hengelo under his command in 2015, and it shows Geert’s success and future-oriented vision. Not only is the building a real eye-catcher that gives profile to Twente, but it is also an example in the field of circularity and material use. Sensata is one of the three most sustainable buildings in the Netherlands. Geert made Sensata into an innovative company for increasing safety and efficiency and combating environmental pollution. As the leader of one of the biggest high-tech companies in Twente, he intensified the knowledge position Twente has, in relation to the rest of the world. He also did this as an active member of the PhotonDelta management team; the ecosystem in the Netherlands for accelerating integrated photonics solutions. He gave a boost to the development of this superior technology, thereby marking Twente’s contribution to the economic opportunities of photonics. His vision and focus on the future are visible here, too, and this seamlessly blends in with his ambition of strengthening Twente’s innovation profile.
Geert knows that talent is of great importance to entrepreneurs in Twente and for the vitality of the region. At the end of 2019, Geert proposed importing knowledge workers to Twente. His credo was this: “Twente should attract aeroplanes full of foreign knowledge workers!”. This message went viral, but Geert kept his feet firmly on the ground. “My message can go “viral”, but that does not mean something is going to happen with it!” It is this typical Twente sobriety combined with a drive for actual results that makes Geert’s actions so characteristic. Roll up your sleeves, build bridges and work together to make the grand plans for Twente into reality. Geert’s ambitions are limitless and are inspiring to the people in his environment.
Onno van Veldhuizen, mayor of Enschede, called him a bridge-builder: “And a bridge-builder is always a pioneer, too”. With his entrepreneurial character and important position, Geert managed to raise a sum of 150 million euros for innovative projects in Twente through solid lobbying, and above all not giving up. “That 150 million is surely the highlight of Geert’s time as chairman of the Twente Board: closing the Twente Regional Deal with the government. But a great deal preceded that highlight. Most of that was Geert’s persistence. “This proud Tukker did not take no for an answer”, according to Hendrik Haaksema, former secretary of the Twente Board. “For the past five years, he volunteered more than two days a week for the Twente Board, without pay.” “Twente must focus on connecting the power of the city and the countryside. That works out well for me because I used to live on a farm”, Geert says. “It didn’t come easy, but we did it”, is Eddy van Hijum, Provincial Executive for the province of Overijssel has to say about Geert’s efforts.
Even though Geert belongs to the “established order” in Twente, he did initiate and stimulate new ideas and influences. He travelled a lot during his career at Sensata, with a higher goal: connecting the world to Twente. After all, it is all about the future of Twente. Geert does what is right for Twente. And not only that, he inspires others to do the same. According to Gyula Rychtarski, chairman of the Young Twente Board: “Our first meeting was a discussion about the Young Twente Board. Geert thought it was time for something new and gave me the opportunity to bring shape to this together with the youth. He brought the Young Twente Board to a good start with his. Thanks to Geert, I want to work for Twente.”
The generations to come are always central to Geert’s actions. The action plan “Twente at work!” is all about creating employment in the region. And according to Geert, entrepreneurs should take the lead in this. He inspires and coaches several young entrepreneurs, but he is a sustainable entrepreneur himself, too. Developing new sources of energy with DutchVentus, designing new sources of energy storage with Super-B and bringing fresh enthousiasm through his chairmanship of the Twente Board. The energy he has for Twente is enormous. “Twente has a lot to offer for a strong, future-oriented economy. That is why we must continue to join forces. I am happy to work for the Twente Board because you seize opportunities with focus and commitment!”. Geert worked tirelessly for Twente as chairman of the Twente Board. And Twente is full of praise for what he achieved. After such a rich legacy it is finally time to step down as chairman of the Twente Board. But Geert will continue to work for Twente. After all, Geert is and remains a “Trotse Tukker”.