Consul General from Netherlands visits Alabama

Consul General from Netherlands visits Alabama
Ard van der Vorst (center) talks to executives from Alabama Power during a visit to Birmingham. (Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

The Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Southeastern United States says his country wants to expand job opportunities and investments in Alabama.

Ard van der Vorst visited Montgomery and Birmingham this week, meeting with government and business leaders from across Alabama. Tuesday’s visits included a lunch meeting at Alabama Power‘s Innovation Center in Birmingham to discuss ways the Netherlands and Alabama can help each other.

“The Netherlands has the ambition to expand its job opportunities here and to invest and expand the trade and investment sectors that we are already in,” van der Vorst said. “We are talking and looking at opportunities to invest more in the agriculture and tech sectors or in the mobility and logistics, as well as also the automotive.”

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The Smart Cities initiative was also discussed. van der Vorst said the Netherlands shares the same challenges cities in Alabama face when it comes to getting agriculture closer to the city, using energy more efficiently, and removing obstacles to healthcare.

“These are things that we are also seeing as a challenge,” van der Vorst said. “By working together we can learn from each other — our companies can learn from each other, as well as the public institutions. We have much more in common than I ever thought.”

van der Vorst was named consul general of the Netherland’s Atlanta Consultate in January 2019. This was his first visit to Alabama, one of five states his consulate serves.

“I’ve been before, prior to this posting, in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, but I don’t know this area so much, like our companies might not know this area so much,” van der Vorst said. “We have about 7,000 jobs related to Dutch-American investments and trades in Alabama, and I think there’s an opportunity to expand that.”

The Netherlands is the 5th largest investor in the United States, supplying about 825,000 jobs related to Dutch-American trade and investments. van der Vorst believes Alabama will be instrumental in growing that number to one million.

“We can only do that when we come down here, see where the opportunities are and invest where we see benefits for each other,” van der Vorst said. “You are all so friendly and I think that’s important because some times you only focus on figures and data, but we also should not underestimate the social concept and the social circumstances. These are important facts about what a welcoming state means, and Alabama does what it does. I think it was very interesting to be here and to continue that conversation with the counterparts here.”

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