Dutch royal visit may spur economic development
The Netherlands’ King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will visit Grand Rapids this week during the couple’s first visit to the U.S. — raising hopes that business partnerships may soon flourish between Dutch and Grand Rapids companies.
The royal couple, who are also making stops in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, will be in Grand Rapids on Tuesday. During their short visit they will tour the Van Andel Institute and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
While their visit is not specifically business oriented, representatives from 50 Dutch-headquartered companies also will visit Grand Rapids this week with the intention of learning more about the region’s agriculture and medical sectors.
They will tour a slew of West Michigan companies, beginning today.
In addition to VAI and the children’s hospital, the business contingent also has planned stops at Stryker Corp., a Meijer Corp. processing plant, Steelcase’s health division and Start Garden.
“The agriculture sector is an important sector for our state and the medical device industry is also important,” said Paul Heule, Eenhoorn principal and Honorary Dutch Consul of West Michigan.
Heule noted agriculture is a big industry sector in the Netherlands, while the medical device sector is smaller.
“But there are some interesting tie-backs,” he said. “Research is very advanced in particular clinical areas.”
In fact, during Tuesday’s visit a letter of cooperation, relating to Parkinson’s research, will be signed by VAI and a Dutch company, witnessed by the King and Queen and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
“I think it’s a real compliment,” Heule said, of the royal couple’s visit to West Michigan.
Heule noted their trip spurred the visit by Netherlands business leaders, and expects it will lead to further interest in the region.
Heule is a founding member of the West Michigan Global Initiative, which was formed five years ago specifically to create business connections between West Michigan and Netherlands companies.
Since its founding, members of the group have visited the Netherlands once and twice have hosted Netherlands business leaders and dignitaries, including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“The thing that is interesting for West Michigan is we get more and more exposure,” Heule said. “That, hopefully, will be helpful for economic development.”
Heule said the previous trade missions, which focused on real estate and private equity, agriculture, and medical device businesses, have resulted in some business and private equity agreements.
The Netherlands is viewed as a natural fit for West Michigan business partnerships because the region has the largest U.S. population of residents who can trace their roots back to the country, as well as having a similar environment and cultural heritage.
The Netherlands is Michigan’s 18th-largest export market and companies exported $332.8 million in goods and materials to the Netherlands, according to WMGI.
In the economic sector, the Netherlands is a fixture among the top five foreign investors in the United States and is the No. 1 destination for American foreign investments, WMGI said.
The Dutch and U.S. economic relationship also supports 685,000 American jobs.