‘The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area is a unique ecosystem’

  8 April 2021  |    Interview

Amsterdam inbusiness guides an increasingly diverse portfolio of businesses to the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. Director Hilde van der Meer isn’t surprised by its success. “Companies want to go where things are happening, because that’s where they can attract talent.”

amsterdam inbusiness is a partnership of the municipalities of Amsterdam, Haarlemmermeer, Almere and Amstelveen. Its aim is to attract international companies to the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. amsterdam inbusiness then helps these companies and their employees find their way and take advantage of all the opportunities the region offers. Director Hilde van der Meer works from the City of Amsterdam’s offices, where she keeps a close eye on the international economy and on international developments that could have an impact on business in the region. The amsterdam inbusiness team do lobby work, connect people, come up with creative solutions to a variety of issues and are forward-thinking in all they do.

Is the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area a popular business location for international companies?
“Yes, very much so. We had just reached a peak when the pandemic hit. Ten or 15 years ago, the region was not quite as high up on the international rankings for business locations, but now we’re a real winner of globalisation! The region is popular among international logistics companies and for head offices, and it’s a favourite destination for startups and scale-ups. Brexit and the arrival of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have also made the region very attractive for the life sciences sector.”

Do you think the pandemic will change the business world?
“There had already been a shift in how we think about a number of things – just think of the sustainability issue. Now I’m noticing that as a result of the crisis, people, and therefore also companies, are even more open to change than usual. For myself, the crisis has also led to a big shift in how I approach things. It used to be: ‘What does the world want from us?’ Now it’s: ‘What do we want from the world?’ It may seem like I think that everything is possible, but that’s only partly true. It’s more a question of how do you shape what you can get from the outside world? The great thing is that Amsterdam has a big startup community, which makes the region hugely attractive to international companies that want to grow. They love coming to Amsterdam. Look at the European headquarters of Netflix. Five years ago, they had 10 people working there, now it’s hundreds. That has a positive effect on Amsterdam’s global reputation. The same can be said about Amsterdam’s status as a centre of innovation. This means that the city and the region are high up on the list of innovative international companies that are looking into opening a European location. Companies want to go where things are happening and where they can grow quickly, because that’s where they can attract talent more easily. That means we must make the region as attractive as possible, on a global and on a local level. Our starting point is positioning the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area as a uniquely sustainable and innovative ecosystem. We now work in a really focused way, making lists with specific companies that we would like to have in our region, sketching the ideal scenario.”

Are these factors less important for companies that are already here?
“No, they are equally important, but there are also other factors at play when it comes to keeping the region attractive for the companies that are already here. It can be little things – like, can employees easily take a nice walk on their lunch break? My co-workers and I have started using an app called Ommetje [a Dutch term for a walk around the block]. We use it to take a walk with the whole team and have our meetings while we’re walking. It really works. I discovered this when I was working from home. I already loved that I had a garden, while living in the middle of the city. But now I often walk through other green spaces in the city while having meetings. It’s wonderful. Cities, but also business parks, need to become a lot greener, so that they can play a recreational role. I recently read an article by a brain surgeon, who recommends going on walks for at least 20 minutes each day. It’s really good for you. For me, working from home has meant my routine has changed and I now have more variety between staring at screens and doing other things, such as gardening and walking. I’d like to work at the office for three days a week and from home for two. It’s important to bring all the things that are important in life together. And the same could be said about the international economy in the Amsterdam Area. It’s all about improving the quality of life and connecting economy with ecology.”