City hosts business leaders from Netherlands


Members of the West Michigan Global Initiative hosted a contingent of business leaders from the Netherlands recently as part of an effort to strengthen business ties between the country and West Michigan.

The West Michigan Global Initiative was founded in 2012 with a focus of bringing together business leaders, investors and public sector professionals from Michigan and the Netherlands to bridge the gap between global markets and the local economy.

The organization hosted its first visitors from the Netherlands that year.

At the time, the Netherlands and West Michigan delegates agreed to make alternating yearly visits, increasing interaction between the two areas that will lead to growth and new business activity.

The most recent visit focused on the medical device and agriculture industries.

“(We) try to pick industries where we think West Michigan has real strengths,” said Paul Heule, Eenhoorn principal and honorary Dutch Consul of West Michigan.

Heule said the Netherlands group toured an agriculture business in Coopersville, attended a luncheon at the Van Andel Institute and enjoyed a reception at Founders Brewing Co. as part of its visit.

He said while the effort will take time to pay off, WMGI is already seeing some promising investments. He noted a new business relationship for Hudsonville Ice Cream and private equity transactions that have taken place as a result of the introductions.

Heule said Grand Valley State University will host an exhibit of pieces from the (Bob) Drake Family’s art collection in 2015.

“I don’t think that connection would have been made if we hadn’t introduced people at GVSU to the Drake family,” Heule said.

“It’s something we believe, if we continue to invest into it, these relationships will blossom and as a result strengthen our ties together and make West Michigan a place to stop over.”

The Netherlands is Michigan’s 18th largest export market; companies exported $332.8 million in goods and materials to the Netherlands, according to WMGI.

WMGI members believe the Netherlands represents a great opportunity for deepening business relationships, particularly given the region’s historical and cultural ties to the country.

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