Besides innovation and investment, internationalization is one of NOM's core tasks. But how exactly does that internationalization work? To answer that question, and more, NOM recently organized a webinar. In an entertaining two-way discussion, Wim A,B. and Gerard Lenstra, both Internationalization Project Managers at NOM, gave a clear insight into the how and why of their work.
Internationalization is perhaps the least visible part of NOM, according to Wim. Simply because part of the work takes place abroad and relatively little about its activities appears in the media. Hence he asks Gerard to explain what internationalization entails in broad terms. 'We try to entice foreign companies to establish themselves in the Netherlands,' says Gerard. 'And preferably in the Northern Netherlands, of course. One of the ways we do this is by looking at the networks in which companies with a desire to establish themselves are located. At the same time, we are in close contact with location selection consultancies that advise companies on the best possible business locations in Europe.'
Storytelling proves to be a powerful tool to make foreign companies aware of the opportunities and possibilities in the Northern Netherlands. Well-constructed stories that convincingly highlight the economic strengths and ambitions of the region. After all, if you are considering settling somewhere you at least want to know what that place has to offer you. In any case, there is no shortage of ambitions in the North. Nor is there any shortage of economically strong sectors. Think of the developments around energy transition, green chemistry, agrifood, ICT and life sciences and health. 'That's why we focus mainly on those specific sectors,' Gerard emphasizes.
Invest in Holland
To give international entrepreneurs and investors a good image of the strength of the region, the Internationalize team can be found in various places. On social media, for example, such as through the image campaign TopDutch in which all propositions are packaged in appealing expressions. But NOM also tries to enthuse companies at trade fairs and conferences. This happens regularly under the name Invest in Holland, a partnership between all regional development companies. Together they focus primarily on promoting the Netherlands as a potential business location. Because that, of course, is where it starts. Once interest is aroused, NOM shifts its focus to the North early on.
'Ultimately, we are there to achieve the best result for the company in question as well as the municipality and the province'
Why the NOM?
Then the key question: why should a company expressing its intention to locate here engage NOM? And why should municipalities and provinces do the same? 'We know the region extremely well,' Gerard says decidedly. 'We know the pluses and minuses, know where the best business locations are and what companies need to consider when they come to the North. In short, we take a lot of work off their hands. At the same time, we can explain to provinces and municipalities what an interested company is doing and looking for. And conversely, we can clearly indicate to companies how the laws and regulations work here.'
Indeed, NOM often acts as a buffer between governments and business. 'Ultimately, we are there to achieve the best result for the company in question as well as the municipality and province,' Wim clarifies. 'Nevertheless, we feel most committed to the company's demand. That has everything to do with NOM's objective: to strengthen the regional economy.'
Dynamic work, this internationalizing, that much is clear. But Wim and Gerard emphasize that of course they don't do it alone. The Internationalize team consists of a close-knit group of people who distribute the work across the various sectors and themes on the basis of their own specific knowledge, experience and network. And so each company is served in the best possible way.
So far, the role of the Internationalize team is clear. Time to get a little more concrete. Suppose a company is genuinely interested, how does such a process work? Gerard: "First we try to find out what a company is really looking for and needs. Once we have compiled and analyzed that information, we draw up a bid book in which we meticulously describe all the opportunities and possibilities for the company in question. If the company is still enthusiastic, we then recommend fact-finding. To talk to relevant parties on the spot and see and experience what the region has to offer. You can overload companies with information and details, but what matters most is that they go home with a good feeling.'
And once companies establish themselves here, is the work over? No, it appears that is by no means the case. On the contrary, NOM is keen to maintain contact. To ensure that they are properly embedded in the ecosystem and quickly feel at home here. But also to be informed at an early stage of, for example, expansion plans. Needless to say, NOM would also like to contribute in that case to ensure that the choice once again falls on the Northern Netherlands.
Opportunities for existing SMEs
Attracting internationals also provides opportunities for companies already established in the North. logical, because after all, these new companies will be looking for suppliers and parties for processing their residual streams, for example. 'Moreover, such a new club not infrequently brings new technology and new knowledge to the region, which benefits the entire chain,' Wim knows. 'In addition, they are often looking for partnerships. These crossovers and synergies we obviously try to make the most of, if possible, so that existing SMEs also ultimately benefit.'