Editor’s note: Below is a commentary written by Esther Smith, director of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency’s Atlanta office. The piece was submitted before Global Atlanta broke the news that a Dutch consulate would open in Atlanta this fall. It underscores what sources in that story affirmed: Atlanta and the Netherlands have historically strong business ties and that the exchange goes in both directions.
Thanks to well-connected airports and seaports, both the Netherlands and the Atlanta region are major players in the global economy. In 2015, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited Atlanta on a trade mission, setting the stage for collaboration between the two regions’ private and public sectors. In the years since, the two regions have shared synergies in industries like logistics, cybersecurity and fintech. Today, the Netherlands and the Atlanta region share a special relationship – in fact, the president of Emory University, Claire E. Sterk, is a Netherlands native.
As logistics hubs, the Netherlands and Georgia are both on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to logistics, distribution and supply chain management. Just as Atlanta is the gateway to the American Southeast, the Netherlands is the gateway to the European continent. Last September, Atlanta and the Netherlands signed a memorandum of understanding acknowledging their intent to work together on logistics and distribution initiatives. The agreement particularly involves the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port, and Atlanta’s neighboring Port of Savannah, an important logistics hub in the Southeast.
Both Holland and Atlanta are also home to world-renowned airports. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s most traveled airport, serving more than 103 million passengers in 2017. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is the No. 1 European airport for direct connectivity, serving more than 320 destinations with 111 airlines. Atlanta and Holland’s relationship is further strengthened by Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc.‘s trans-Atlantic partnership with Dutch airline KLM.
Thanks to these ties, Atlanta companies like Coca-Cola, UPS and more have tapped into the Dutch logistics networks with distribution operations in the Netherlands. In November 2017, UPS announced plans to open a new packaging and sorting facility in Holland’s Eindhoven region, joining the company’s existing 16 Dutch facilities. The $150 million facility will play a pivotal role in UPS’ European distribution and represents one of the company’s largest-ever European investments. Holland’s deep logistics network also supports the agri/food industry. In 2016, Atlanta-based AGRO Merchants Group expanded its Dutch facility near the Port of Rotterdam to offer end-to-end services for the cold chain industry.
As one of Atlanta’s fastest-growing industries, financial technology drives more than $30 billion in annual revenues in the metro area. The Netherlands is also a growing hub for the global fintech industry. In fact, fintech unicorn Adyen was started in Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem in 2006. Currently valued between $7 billion – $11 billion, the startup has raised $266 million in outside funding to date. Last month, representatives from the Metro Atlanta Chamber as well as Atlanta fintech companies traveled to Amsterdam for Money 20/20, Europe’s largest fintech event. The Atlanta representatives got the chance to learn from Holland’s brightest fintech minds and connect with powerful players in the European fintech market.
Atlanta-based tech startups continue to find a European home in the Netherlands, drawn by a business-friendly tax climate, English-speaking workforce and highly skilled talent pool. In 2016, Aegex Technologies established its European headquarters at CIC Rotterdam, the European branch of Boston’s Cambridge Innovation Center.
The Atlanta region is home to U.S. headquarters and operations of major Dutch multinationals – Unilever, Randstad, TenCate, AkzoNobel, ING, Rabobank and VanderLande, to name a few. The Netherlands American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast has been located in Georgia since 2010 and counts 70 regional companies among its ranks.
As the most economically competitive country in the European Union, the Netherlands is a fertile ground for business. Whether in logistics, fintech or cybersecurity, Atlanta-based companies seeking an entry point into the European market continue to “go Dutch.” The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency stands ready to roll out the orange carpet and welcome Atlanta-based companies to their new European home in the Netherlands.
Esther Smith is the head of the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency’s Atlanta office.