Left to right: Chris Smith, Danish honorary consul of Denmark in Georgia; Gov. Nathan Deal, Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen and Danish Trade Commissioner Jan Sauer.

When Michael Stentebjerg was sent to set up a one-man sales office in North America for Uhrenholt, a Danish food trading company, he considered living in most of the major cities on the East Coast.

Each had its own appeal, but he turned them down one by one. Boston was too much of a university town. New York was too cold. Miami was too hot. Washington was too political, and he couldn’t stand the thought of wearing a tie so often.

And then there was Atlanta, with its moderate climate, Southern hospitality, well-connected airport and strong Danish business community. Mr. Stentebjerg was sold.

“I heard good things about Atlanta, plus a lot of our competitors have their offices here,” which meant he could talk with suppliers who were in town to meet with other companies, he told GlobalAtlanta.

Three years later, Mr. Stentebjerg is working out of a Buckhead office leased from the Trade Commission of Denmark. His main task is buying unprocessed meats from U.S. slaughterhouses to sell overseas, but he also hopes to introduce the company’s branded fish, dairy, meat and vegetable products into North America.

Mr. Stentebjerg went to the Carter Center on March 2 with a group of local Danish business leaders for a luncheon with Peter Taksoe-Jensen, Denmark’s ambassador to the U.S.

The goal was to hear about developments in Denmark while helping Mr. Taksoe-Jensen understand how Atlanta has been a good fit for their businesses, said Jan Sauer, Denmark’s trade commissioner in Atlanta since 2005.

The trade commission has an incubator called the Accelerator, which provides services and office space to help small Danish firms get started in the U.S. market. Of the more than 40 companies that have graduated from the Accelerator in the past decade, many have stayed in Atlanta even after setting out on their own.

In addition to his diplomatic role, Mr. Taksoe-Jensen is head of Denmark’s trade councils in the U.S., which are tasked with promoting Danish companies and exports.

Danish firms have cutting-edge technologies in hot sectors like renewable energy, but the companies are often small, and they’re sometimes hesitant to take on the risk of opening a U.S. office. 

“Our experience is that once they’re in the market … there’s no problem whatsoever,” Mr. Taksoe-Jensen said. “It’s getting them here and establishing them here that is a challenge.”

That’s why it’s important to have the Atlanta incubator, he said.

NS Media, which provides software to help entertainment and telecommunications companies manage customer loyalty programs, probably never would have come to the U.S. without the Accelerator, said Jens Eriksen, the company’s top representative in the U.S.

Once he landed in Atlanta, he found the city to be a great place from which to launch the small company’s first foray beyond Europe.

“Atlanta has proven to have a lot of innovative people, and I have had a lot of good dialogues,” said Mr. Eriksen, who also met with the ambassador at the Carter Center. 

For Claus Staalner, president of C.S. Industries LLC, moving to Atlanta in 1984 was all about Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

While living in North Carolina and working in the woodworking machinery industry, Mr. Staalner found that he had to fly through Atlanta to get just about anywhere. 

In Atlanta, “you have good international banking capabilities, and I obviously travel all over the continent and to Europe and South America and whatnot, so the infrastructure from the airport standpoint is just superb,” he said.

After moving here, Mr. Staalner helped start a variety of businesses in Atlanta before eventually landing at C.S. Industries. The company imports and distributes specialized woodworking machinery from Denmark and the Netherlands.

Mr. Staalner hoped to get a sense from the ambassador of how EU governments are handling the aftermath of the economic downturn. Though Denmark is not a euro zone country, a strong euro makes machines produced in France and the Netherlands more expensive for American buyers at a time when the construction industry is already pinched, he said.

Before traveling to Atlanta, Mr. Taksoe-Jensen gave a lecture at Mercer University in Macon on Denmark’s renewable energy revolution. More than 150 people attended.

After an oil crisis in the 1970s, Denmark discovered oil off its coast. But instead of using that find to justify staying tied to the fossil-fuel economy, the country used oil to buy time to invest in wind power and energy-efficiency upgrades.

The country of nearly 5 million people has become almost completely energy independent. Along the way, Danish firms have developed products that can help the U.S. meet today’s energy challenge, he said.

For more information about the trade commission, visit http://www.dtcatlanta.um.dk/en.

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As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...