When United Parcel Service Inc. expanded its logistics facility in Venlo, southeast Netherlands earlier this year, the move wasn’t much of a surprise.
Large Atlanta-based multinationals such as UPS, NCR Corp. and Coca-Cola Co. have long picked the Netherlands for its trade-friendly culture, favorable tax policies and extensive connectivity.
But those same advantages are starting to lure small to mid-sized businesses from a variety of sectors, according to executives from the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency.
Over the past few years, a surge of American software and technology companies from both the west and east coasts, have begun to use the Netherlands as their “hub for Europe,” said Ard Crebas, the Atlanta-based area director for NFIA, which helps connect businesses to the Netherlands.
“We don’t promote the Netherlands for the Netherlands,” Mr. Crebas told Global Atlanta.
Mr. Crebas, who has worked with Atlanta firms such as Clearleap, ClickDimensions and Comentec, said the influx of ITcompanies largely has to do with its tech-savvy, multilingual – and most importantly, experienced – labor pool. Most IT companies in the Netherlands rely on established professionals rather than recent college grads, Mr. Crebas said.
“Being such a small market can be an interesting test market too,” he said. “Amsterdam has an open and entrepreneurial society.”
While several member states of the European Union have struggled to regain their footing since the 2008 financial crisis, the Netherlands has enjoyed slow but steady growth over the past few years, helping the country make its case as a more stable entree into the EU market of more than 500 million people.
Jeroen Nijland, Dutch commissioner for the NFIA, who spoke at the January breakfast of the Netherlands-American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast in Atlanta, said openness to foreign firms is essential to the Dutch economy.
“It is in the DNA of everything we do,” Mr. Nijland told Global Atlanta. “Being so small, we understood centuries ago that we need to be open and welcome investments.”
Part of that economic hospitality, Mr. Nijland explained, is evident in the combination of tax incentives, double-taxation treaties and generally favorable laws help companies keep costs down.
“All this is backed by a very business-minded taxation authority,” said Mr. Nijland, who stressed how efficiency and transparency provides the predictability that investors look for when choosing where to locate their businesses. “As an investor, you know what you get.”
In 2013, the NFIA handled 194 foreign-led investment projects in the Netherlands, accounting for 8,400 jobs. The U.S. currently stands as the country’s top foreign investor, a legacy that can partly be traced back to long-held diplomatic relations between the two governments.
“The Dutch and the Americans are culturally close when doing business,” said Mr. Nijland, who referenced Dutch as the linguistic origins of “Wall Street” and the “dollar.” “We understand each other.”
Regardless of that steady, amiable connection, though, ties between the U.S. and EU might become a bit more unpredictable in the coming months.
The European Central Bank announced recently that it would pump a trillion dollars back into the region through an ambitious bond-buying program. The euro, meanwhile, recently plunged to an 11-year low against dollar, unleashing unpredictable ramifications for ongoing investment deals.
Mr. Crebas, however, said the uncertainty may actually benefit the Netherlands as a relative safe haven, while the weaker euro may trigger investments that otherwise might’ve been untenable. European exports will grow cheaper as well, potentially benefiting the trade-heavy Dutch economy.
“There’s always pros and cons,” Mr. Crebas said. “In the short term, it could be interesting for the Netherlands, especially because it’s a trading hub and clients look at the Netherlands from a European point of view.”
To learn more about the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, visit www.nfia.com.