Paul Heule, the honorary consul for The Netherlands in West Michigan, says he hopes a 25-person delegation from Dutch agricultural and medical device companies, gained an appreciation for West Michigan during its three-day visit this week.
Heule, the president of Eenhoorn LLC, says he also hopes their hosts gained a similar appreciation for the expertise their Dutch visitors have to offer West Michigan.
“The hope is that both places will benefit,” said Heule of the trade mission, which included tours of West Michigan horticulture equipment companies, dairy farms, cheese processors and medical device companies.
The delegation’s visit was a follow-up to a trip to the Netherlands made by state officials and leaders of the West Michigan Global Initiative in 2013.
The three-day visit concluded on Wednesday, Oct. 8, with a downtown reception for some 300 invited guests that included Heineken’s beer, Dutch food and Dutch music. In a diplomatic gesture, locally brewed Founders beer also was served.
The delegates also met with Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development Director Jamie Clover Adams and Right Place President Birgit Klohs, who said she will pay a call on some of the visitors during an upcoming trip to Europe.
As the world’s second largest agricultural producer and exporter, Klohs said there is a lot the Dutch can teach to Michigan farmers, who have the second largest variety of crops in the U.S. after California.
Klohs said West Michigan companies can learn from the logistical expertise of Dutch companies, which specialize in the trade and export of flowers, plants and flower bulbs. That expertise can be applied in Michigan, where food processing is part of the state’s strategy to lessen its reliance on the auto industry.
The exchange also was designed to acquaint the Dutch visitors with the Dutch culture that exists in West Michigan, Klohs said. “A lot of people in the Netherlands don’t realize there is a Holland, Michigan and a Zeeland, Michigan.”