Consul General Gerbert Kunst gives Nederland Mayor Kristopher Larsen a “Nederland” border traffic sign to show the friendship between Nederland and the Netherlands.
By Kimberly Beijersbergen
Consulate General of the Netherlands in San Francisco
Did you know that Nederland has an elevation of 8,234 feet? Surprised? Don’t be. We’re talking about Nederland, Colorado, not our homeland across the Atlantic Ocean.
Nederland is a town on the border of the Rocky Mountains, not far from Boulder and Denver, but 4,822 miles away from our Netherlands. Still, Nederland takes pride in its Dutch heritage.
Nederland is named after the Nederland Mining Company, which bought a mine there in 1873. Dutch miners nicknamed the town as Nederland (low land) because it was located in the lowest area of the Middle Boulder.
Nearly 145 years after Nederland became the town’s name, the Netherlands set up a Pop-Up Consulate in nearby Denver to strengthen the ties with Colorado, connect Dutch and American businesses, and, of course, visit Nederland.
Consul General Gerbert Kunst believes that the Netherlands and Colorado can build a strong economic partnership when they connect the dots.
“In recent years, Colorado and the Netherlands have explored their cooperation, in agriculture, sustainability and innovation,” he said. “This spring, a Colorado delegation visited the Netherlands. Now we are back with the Pop-Up Consulate. It is with steps like these that our experts and business get to know each other and that we build a true partnership aimed at tangible results.
“I invite businesses in Colorado that want to collaborate on innovation or dream of exploring business in Europe to contact me to see how we can work together. The Netherlands is the gateway to Europe and we love to advise how to set up business in our country.”
This week there were meetings with officials from the state of Colorado; the cities of Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder; the Rocky Mountain Institute; and the US Olympic Committee. But what makes the partnership between Colorado and the Netherlands so interesting?
When someone thinks of tech, Silicon Valley usually comes to mind. But Denver is the innovative capital of the southern Rocky Mountains. Colorado is home to more than 10,000 tech companies and many more are moving to Denver.
Colorado exports merchandise worth more than $275.8 million per year to the Netherlands, and trade and investment between our two nations supports 8,000 jobs in Colorado. That makes the Netherlands a top 10 trading partner for Colorado.
“Colorado is rapidly changing and expanding its focus on international business,” said Liselore van Thoor, Honorary Consul in Denver. “I see many opportunities for collaboration between the Netherlands and the US. For instance, technology, sustainability, agriculture, and energy. It’s easy to build a network here, and people are ready to make a deal. And on top of that, Coloradans have an entrepreneurial mentality like the Dutch, which is a perfect fit.”
Dutch national Thierry Schellenbach is the founder and CEO of Stream, which is based in Boulder. He sees many advantages to working in Colorado.
“People want to connect here and are open to introducing you to their network,” he said. “That makes doing business so much easier and more pleasant. My company finds the right people here and we can really grow.”
Christiaan de Jong is a PhD candidate with bladder cancer as his main topic. His research is a collaboration between the University of Colorado Denver and the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. He finds it interesting to connect the Dutch and US academic worlds.
“We can do research on a much bigger scale here, which hopefully leads to real impact for bladder cancer patients in the near future,” he said. “Working here is also challenging at times, as Americans work more individually and less in a team, but combining the American can-do mentality with a Dutch cooperative approach is an excellent way to move forward in research.”
Like most American cities, Denver depends on cars, but it’s slowly shifting toward green mobility and sustainable transportation. For example, Denver wants to install 125 miles of bikeways over the next five years.
During the Pop-Up Consulate, the Netherlands and the City of Denver hosted a ThinkBike Workshop with Bicycle Colorado and the Dutch Cycling embassy to discuss the challenges of cycling in Denver and possible Dutch solutions.
Cycling expert Wim van der Wijk discussed the challenges with the participants.
“It’s a pleasure to work with Denver stakeholders to improve their cycling infrastructure and show everybody that a cycling culture in the Netherlands is also possible in the United States,” he said. “But American lifestyle differs from the Dutch, so copy-paste of the Dutch infrastructure is not an option. It will be the same but different. The enthusiasm and commitment of the cycling community in Denver will continue to bring improvements, making it even more accepted and importantly more safe to cycle in the city.”
The Dutch are experts on how to safely integrate bikes into city infrastructure. With a population of 17 million people, the Netherlands needed to find solutions to manage congestion and cramped city centers.
“We see true opportunities to work together with Denver, Colorado, on making cycling more accessible and safer,” said Consul General Gerbert Kunst. “The Cycling Embassy has shown some great examples for bridges and parking. I look forward to the next step.”
Traveling exhibition on the life of Anne Frank
The traveling exhibition on the life of Anne Frank, which the Consulate General and the Anne Frank House brought to the western US, now travels in Denver. At a launch event with students and teachers, Consul General Gerbert Kunst met Denver Mayor Michael B Hancock, who spoke at the event.
“Anne Frank’s story is one that’s known the world over, and its themes of hope and determination still resonate in the hearts and minds of all people who hear and read it,” said Mayor Hancock. “We’re honored that Denver’s high schools have been chosen to host this exhibition, and I hope all of our students have the opportunity to see and learn from this important chapter in our shared history.”
Participating schools include Kent Denver School, Broomfield High School, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, North High School, DSST Byers Middle and High School, South High School, and Bruce Randolph Middle and High School. The exhibition will be on display for the public in the Webb Municipal Building in early June.
Back at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Nederland became a bit more like the Netherlands during the consulate’s visit.
Consul General Kunst handed Nederland Mayor Kristopher Larsen a “Nederland” border traffic sign to show the friendship between Nederland and the Netherlands. It will be on display in the town’s visitor center.