SYLVAN LAKE—Business opportunities with companies in the Netherlands are plentiful but there is a lack of awareness about them here, a group of Central Alberta community leaders heard on Saturday.
Henke ten Wolde, trade commissioner for Alberta Netherlands Trade Office in Edmonton, and Netherlands’ Consul General Johannes Vervloed of Vancouver hosted a Skate Trade reception as part of the 100-km North American Marathon Speed Skating Championship in Sylvan Lake.
The reception aimed to connect businesses in the region with the consul general and to further establish relations between Central Alberta and Dutch businesses.
Vervloed is one of two consul generals for the Netherlands. A colleague in Toronto looks after Eastern Canada matters.
He said the opportunities are great between the Netherlands and Alberta and will only increase when the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is signed and gets underway, expected for 2013.
The Netherlands — nestled between Belgium and Germany and home to an estimated 16.7 million — is recognized as a key distribution centre for the rest of Europe. Alberta beef and other products are generally shipped to Rotterdam, home to the world’s third-largest port.
“That’s interesting for Alberta because they can export their products, sell their products to Europe via our network,” said Vervloed, who was on his first trip to Central Alberta after coming to Canada 18 months ago.
“It’s not only the port of entry, but we also have the logistics and distribution facilities and marketing people, etc.”
There are connections already, particularly after Canadian solders found brides in the Netherlands after liberating the country during the Second World War.
Over time, many Dutch people have moved to Canada to work in the agricultural and horticultural industries.
There are strong ties in these areas, such as new greenhouse technology tends to come from the Netherlands, Vervloed said.
Plus, there are a number of Dutch energy companies working in Alberta’s oilsands.
But there are other opportunities awaiting Central Alberta, according to ten Wolde who hopes to see a number of Dutch companies attend Agri-Trade in Red Deer this fall.
Alberta businesses will also be invited to attend a November trade fair in the Netherlands.
“Mostly it is a lack of awareness,” said ten Wolde, who showed two videos in his presentation illustrating the various successful businesses from his homeland.
“People will say ‘Hey! I recognize a lot of them and I didn’t know that the Netherlands were so good at that.’”
The Dutch are known for their expertise in nine sectors: water, agrofood, horticulture, high tech, life sciences, chemistry, energy, logistics and the creative industry.
The Netherlands is working with the Alberta government on doing a feasibility study and pilot project on groundwater monitoring.
The Dutch are also known for adding value to products.
The country is the second-largest food exporter in the world.
The country doesn’t produce so much, but it imports a lot of food, then adds value to it and exports it again, ten Wolde said.
“There’s a big opportunity for the agricultural market, especially in Central Alberta, to do something with that,” he said.
Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling, one of about 35 people who attended the function at Smuggler’s Inn, said he’s previously met ten Wolde and now he’s met the consul general, so this meeting was great for establishing existing and new connections.
He knows the Dutch are recognized for their work in bio-gas, a type of renewable fuel.
“It’s good to find out about the Dutch industries and see what opportunities there are,” Flewwelling said.