When Carsten Rosendahl took over as Danish trade commissioner in early July, he began a new career track.
Though he was selected out of 80 applicants for the job of promoting Danish goods and companies in Atlanta and the Southeast, Mr. Rosendahl had never worked for the government before.
That might’ve played in his favor. Mr. Rosendahl believes his private-sector experience is a major reason he was chosen to replace Jan Sauer, who had served in the post since 2005.
Denmark, a country of 5 million people, relies on innovation for its vitality. The country is well-known for its strengths in information technology and clean energy. Forced to compete with large neighbors like Germany, Danish firms have a reputation for being able to exploit profitable niches in major industries.
But because of their size, they sometimes hesitate to bring products across the Atlantic. For the past six years, Mr. Sauer has focused on fixing this problem through an incubator program launched at the Atlanta office shortly before he arrived.
When Mr. Sauer took over, only four Danish companies were using the Accelerator. The number of firms swelled to 24 at its height and has receded to about 15, Mr. Sauer said.
Housed at the trade commission, the Accelerator furnishes office space, legal services and clerical support for companies, allowing them to focus on adapting to the new market. Most eventually move out on their own.
The success of the program has not only led the Danish government to emulate it in places like China, but it has also resulted in many Danish companies setting up North American operations in Atlanta. Thanks to the help of partners like the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the state of Georgia, there’s now a thriving “ecosystem” for Danish firms here, Mr. Sauer said.
“I think we’ve put Atlanta on the map, though we still need to market it,” he told GlobalAtlanta during an interview at the trade commission’s Buckhead office.
Mr. Rosendahl said he will build on his predecessor’s work, though he plans to use his industrial background to make sure that Danish manufacturers don’t miss out on opportunities in the U.S.
The dollar’s slide against the euro gives the U.S. a great case for luring manufacturing, and the market for many specialized industrial products here is strong, he said.
The problem is that when it comes to investing abroad, Danish manufacturers are more cautious than companies that sell services or intellectual property. They worry about the risks that come with capital-intensive building projects, Mr. Rosendahl added.
The trade commission hopes to help firms navigate regulatory challenges, work with local government leaders and find American partners.
“I do think that we have a chance to provide services to large industrial clients,” he said.
It helps that Mr. Rosendahl has been in their shoes. He studied to become an export technician, a discipline that melded knowledge of trades like welding and drilling with commercial skills like cross-cultural relations and export law.
He started his professional career in sales with Struers, an equipment manufacturer. He then moved to engineering consultancy COWI, where he sold maps constructed using aerial photography and other high-tech methods. He went back to Struers as a sales manager before landing the job at the trade commission.
Already he has begun to understand why so many Danish families have settled in Atlanta.
“I love it here. I think it’s fantastic – the hospitality, the climate, and the city is wonderful too. It doesn’t feel like you have 5 million people,” he said.
The move is the newest adventure for Mr. Rosendahl, whose love of travel has taken him to more than 50 countries. He has backpacked in China and spent a month in India with his wife, where the couple lived on $20 per day.
Those experiences gave him an appreciation for cultural diversity and an unquenchable desire to see more of the world.
“There’s always another place you want to see. Once you’ve fulfilled one wish to see and experience something special, there’s always something else that opens up,” he said.
Moving his wife and three children to the East Cobb area (other Danish families recommended the schools there) has been “revitalizing” as the family has traded its comfort zone for an exciting new reality, he said.
As for Mr. Sauer, the former trade commissioner, he’s staying in Atlanta and will continue working with startups and small enterprises. In the few months between now and starting his next position, he’ll welcome a daughter into the world. He’ll also be helping Atlanta nonprofit SafeHouse improve its operations.
Visit www.dtcatlanta.um.dk/en/ for more information on the trade commission.