COR Hersbach, Deputy Consul General-Trade and Cultural Affairs- Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
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Dutch-Chicago Trade Office Operations
Michael Muth (MM): Who are your clients & how do you serve them?
Cor Hersbach (CH): Our clients are Dutch SMEs. We assist them any way we can to get them to the market, specifically in 14 Midwestern states. We’ve looked at a number of sectors where the Netherlands does well and where we can add value and there is a market here. We help any Dutch company, but our main focus is on renewable energy, climate change, green building, architecture and creative industries. In those sectors we try to stay on top of what’s happening here. We make sure we have a network, so when a client approaches us, we can advise them immediately.
MM comment: Some Americans think foreign consulate’s role is to help Americans do business in their country, but that’s only a small part of what they do.
MM: What services do you provide?
CH: For SME’s in the Netherlands there are all sorts of information available on markets, products, countries, trade shows. We also have certain subsidies which support opportunities for doing international business. It’s not always about money though. A company can approach us with a particular question, for instance “Can you help us find a distributor?” The SME’s don’t have the time or staff to do an extensive market study. We provide a free service where we do a market scan and inform the SME about the size of the market, the competitors, trade shows, and so on. It’s not as extensive as what a consultant would do but meant as an introduction for the SME make a more informed decision on whether they should be doing business in the USA.
MM comment: From what I understand it was a Dutch government program which helped the Netherlands Water Partnership get involved with assisting New Orleans & the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina.
MM: Who pays for your services & what are those rates?
CH: We don’t charge. Everything we do is free.
MM comment: some consulates charge their clients for their services, others don’t’
MM: Can you give an example of a Dutch & American company you’ve helped from this office?
CH: It works both ways. We try to enhance the economic activity between our two countries on an ongoing basis, coming in & going out. We are primarily concerned with helping Dutch companies coming over here & help them set up shop or sell their goods here.
March 2007 I met a company in the Netherlands that produces green roofs. Chicago is the green roof capital of the US, if not the world. We were able to link them with the info & people they needed. They are now in the process of setting up an operation here in Chicago. Summer 2008 their products will be on the market. The Netherlands has always been strong in the agricultural sector combined with sustainable environmental technologies.
Waste management is very well developed. We landfill 2% of our waste. The US landfills about 70%. We have a waste-to-energy company that makes a zero-waste plant with smoke coming out of the stack that is almost only water vapor They make limestone bricks out of it. It’s actually a money maker for the city of Amsterdam.
MM comment: It’s humbling to see another country put us to shame in waste management.
MM: Why should Americans invest in the Netherlands?
CH: The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, located next door to us helps American companies which want to invest in Europe and hopefully settle in the Netherlands. If you’re seeking a distribution center in Europe, the Netherlands is a very smart option. It depends on the focus of the American company, tax, labor, language, etc. The US is the largest investor in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is only a country of 16 million people but we are the 4 th largest investor in the US. In other words we understand international business. We offer multiple business solutions: a.o. European distribution and strategic headquarter locations. We have all the facilities. We are the gateway to Europe. Taxes are advantageous. The Dutch tax office has a good way of working with businesses to rule in a favorable way. For more specifics, talk to our colleagues at the NFIA. We speak multiple languages. Universities offer 100’s of courses in English and almost all Dutch speak English.
MM comment: I’ve been to Holland & have some friends who live there. It’s certainly an investment-worthy destination for all the reasons Cor mentions.
Muth in his much younger days
MM: Why should Americans export to Holland?
CH: Given current exchange rates selling to the Euro-zone is very favorable for American companies today.
MM comment: Sophisticated customers with a world outlook helps as well.
MM: What new technologies are coming out of the Netherlands these days?
CH: Gaming is an area where we’re quite strong. Creative industries do well. The Dutch automotive sector has high-tech applications they’re developing. The IT is in the car & on the road, i.e. in the surface of the road to guide the car. Others are renewable energy, hybrid fuels, waste management, anything related to climate, planning, building issues, & working with/combating water.
MM comment: They have hosted a number of events in the past year highlighting Dutch businesses
MM: You’re the leader of the trade commissioners association. What’s important about that for local readers to know?
CH: I currently serve as chairman of Chicago International Trade Commissioners Assn. (CITCA) It consists of consulates and trade commissions. We all do things in slightly different ways, but we generally do the same job. In short I’m a broker in contacts. We have a network. When we get an inquiry, we connect people. That’s what we all do. By working together we can offer more as a group. We can present ourselves as a reverse trade mission. We had representatives from 15 countries travelling to Detroit. In Chicago we have a group of 42 members from 36 countries who will come to you. We pay our own way. All we ask is that the hosts show us around. We need to learn about the opportunities from them. If a new trade commissioner arrives, you don’t know anyone. My first call was to CITCA. Any trade related question, we can answer it. We share connections & resources. That’s how it works. The market is huge. We realize we are competitors but the market is big enough to share. For example, we were invited to the headquarters of McDonald’s & saw presentations on operations & distribution. I was talking to a Dutch company about processing all their behind the counter organic waste. They make renewable energy out of it. One of the Asian colleagues wanted to make a connection for toys with happy meals.
MM comment: Clients might not be aware of this organization, but it can be helpful behind the scenes.