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Calley seeks more Netherlands trade

AP Wire • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:29 PM

West Michigan — with cities such as Holland and Zeeland — was founded by Dutch immigrants. The western European country's major economic sectors, as in Michigan, are manufacturing, tourism and agriculture, he said.

"It's our 18th strongest export market, frankly without a lot of specific effort," Calley told The Associated Press in a phone interview this week from the Netherlands, where he was leading a six-day investment mission. A delegation including Calley, two lawmakers, the state's agriculture director and economic-development officials was scheduled to return Friday.

Unlike other trade missions, the one to the Netherlands was mainly to build relationships and not a "staged" opportunity to announce a host of Dutch business expansions in Michigan, Calley said.

"It's a dual strategy. We always want more investment but also new markets for Michigan-made products," he said.

As the delegation traveled around the country roughly twice the size of New Jersey, Calley said it talked up the state's business tax changes, improved regulatory climate and labor force. Calley said he would stack Michigan workers up against any in the U.S., particularly with the concentration of engineers in the state.

Another part of the sales pitch was the federal government's recent approval of a second bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario — a gateway to Dutch companies wanting to do business in Canada, he said. Strategically, the Snyder administration sees the Netherlands as an important link in Michigan's export-growth plans because deep-sea ports there also provide access for Michigan-made products to other parts of Europe.

Calley said there already are some natural business ties between Michigan and the Netherlands.

The delegation met with executives of Midland-based Dow Chemical Co.'s unit in the Netherlands. Eighteen plants in Terneuzen form Dow's second-largest production facility in the world. Other key meetings were held with auto suppliers and the financial sector.

"We have identified many opportunities — there will be a lot of follow-up from the trip," Calley said.

Other participants included House Speaker House Jase Bolger, Sen. Arlan Meekhof and Jamie Clover Adams, director of the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The mission was a project of the West Michigan Global Initiative — which facilitates relationships with the Netherlands — with assistance from economic-development groups.

Depending on the official, travel costs were covered either by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s corporate funds, the West Michigan Global Initiative or the agriculture department budget.

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