Rudolf Bekink speaks to the Dutch community before a viewing of "Girl With a Pearl Earring" and other Dutch masterpieces at the High Museum of Art. 

Old paintings are one thing, but the Dutch ambassador to the United States pointed out in Atlanta that young entrepreneurs are also showcasing the creativity his country has to offer. 

“We have met a number of young Dutch entrepreneurs who are making money here in Atlanta, and we also met with Atlanta entrepreneurs who want to invest in the Netherlands, and that is what we love,” said Rudolf Bekink, who ended a two-day visit to Atlanta with a viewing of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age at the High Museum of Art

Art and culture are key exports for a country known as a logistics hub that generates more than half of its economic output from foreign trade. 

Institutions like the Rijksmuseum draw millions of visitors, and Dutch painters like Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh and Johannes Vermeer are internationally known. 

Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring” anchors the exhibition at the High of Dutch masterpieces from the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, which is also visiting New York and San Francisco during its U.S. tour. When it was in Japan, “‘the girl’ and “her friends” constituted the most popular exhibition in the world, High director Michael Shapiro said at the Tuesday reception hosted by the Netherlands-American Chamber of Commerce Southeast

The Netherlands is capitalizing on its artistic past to sell its advantages as a creative hub for the digital age, and Atlanta is growing increasingly connected. Big Nerd Ranch, an Atlanta-based company that develops apps and software training courses, set up an office in the Dutch capital last year to be part of that scene. 

TomorrowWorld, a spinoff of the TomorrowLand electronic music festival started by a Dutch team and held each year in Antwerp, Belgium, is coming to the Bouckaert Farm in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., south of Atlanta in late September

But the Atlanta entrepreneurs and executives Mr. Bekink met represent companies of varying sizes across sectors, from protective clothing in Union City (Tencate Inc.) to baggage conveyance systems (Vanderlande Industries). Also on the list were Mylaps, which produces automated timing systems for sporting events, and food service company ddFoodSolutions

Trade Talks

Beyond investment, Mr. Bekink also emphasized his country’s trade ties with Georgia. Exports of $626 million support nearly 6,000 jobs in the state

Unknown to many Americans, the Netherlands is a top exporter of agricultural products despite having a population of just 17 million. 

Mr. Bekink was keenly aware of that fact in his previous posting in China, where the food-related inquiries seemed to flood in. In the United States, it’s been harder for Dutch farmers to sell their goods. He hopes that barriers will be reduced as a result of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed free trade agreement between the U.S. and EU. Negotiations on the pact are slated to begin in July. 

The ambassador admitted the agreement would face a tough battle but said it’s an opportunity for the world’s two largest economic blocs to set global standards for trade policy related to issues like labor and safety. 

“It’s one step forward for trade and we do see it as very beneficial,” Mr. Bekink said. 

Global Gateways 

Trade talks are crucially important to the Netherlands and Georgia, which are both key logistical gateways into important economic regions. 

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest airport, while Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is lauded as one of the world’s most efficient. Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Richard Anderson called Schiphol the “world’s best international airport” during a meeting with Mr. Bekink, according to Simone Filippini, the Dutch consul general to the Southeast in Miami

“We have quite some trade between Port of Savannah and the Port of Rotterdam, and of course we have the excellent cooperation between KLM-Delta, so I think there’s huge appreciation on both sides of the equation as to the very constructive character of that operation,” Ms. Filippini said. 

Atlanta is a different place than the one Mr. Bekink encountered 30 years ago when on his first trip here as a young diplomat, but one innovative airport feature remains. 

“It was the first time I was in an airport with a train, I think. I had never seen that before, and it must’ve been at that time fairly a novelty,” he said. 

Mr. Bekink also met with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, accompanied by the Dutch honorary consul in Georgia, Ewoud Swaak.  

To contact Dutch organizations in Atlanta, visit

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...