Municipality of Groningen signs long-term cooperation with International Welcome Center North

On Wednesday, 12 April, representatives from the municipality of Groningen – public affairs director Gert Willem Hanekamp and economic affairs director Diderik Koolman – signed an agreement formalizing a long-term partnership with the International Welcome Center North (IWCN).

This cooperation had existed for some time, but has now been affirmed for the years to come, and strengthens the crucial role of IWCN in facilitating for economic migrants and international small and medium enterprises in Groningen and the northern Netherlands.

IWCN’s new status as a foundation better enables us to support knowledge migrants and international companies and grow in development, and ensures that Groningen is – and will continue to be – an international stage for innovation, industry and talent.

Koolman’s signature helped make this partnership possible, and was a sign of faith in the achievements and potential of the organization, given that the public affairs director will be retiring in the near future.

“By signing this, I’m giving everything away to you”, Koolman jokingly stated during the signing at IWCN. “Diderik is saying goodbye soon but together with IWCN and the new director of economic affairs, Saskia van Ham, we will continue working closely together”, Hannekamp said.

Significance for the municipality

Since its founding eight years ago, IWCN has grown into a successful project by and for the municipality of Groningen, in cooperation with many other partners in the north of the Netherlands.

Because of its vital role in the attraction and retention of international staff, support for accompanying partners and services provided to international students, IWCN is of great strategic importance to the municipality of Groningen in particular.

In addition to staffing the biggest international employers in the city – the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen – the growth of knowledge-intensive companies which rely in no small part on international talent is also crucial for the future of the city. The presence of a well-run international welcome center is an essential prerequisite for ensuring the city and region will remain an appealing destination for professionals and students from abroad.

IWCN’s joint approach

IWCN has been the “expat centre” for the northern Netherlands since November 2014. With an intentionally joint approach of cooperating with local governments, national government agencies and universities enables us to do work on behalf of international companies, startups, knowledge migrants and their families, international students and other internationals in our region, among others.

In addition to the municipality of Groningen, here are some of IWCN’s key stakeholders:

– 12 municipalities (Assen, Eemsdelta, Emmen, Heerenveen, Het Hogeland, Leeuwarden, Midden-Groningen, Noordenveld, Smallingerland, Súdwest-Fryslân, Westerveld and Veendam)

– Knowledge institutions (University of Groningen, Hanzehogeschool Groningen, NHL Stenden Hogeschool and the University Medical Center Groningen)

– The Immigration and Naturalisation Service as the implementing body of the Ministry of Justice and Safety, which collects biometrics and distributes work and residence permits at IWCN

– The three northern provinces (Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland)

Future of IWCN

The future of IWCN is bright, and our results from the past year speak for themselves: with 3,200 new knowledge migrants, more than 6,000 visitors and 67 new international companies (bringing our total to 374), the permanent necessity and value of IWCN is undeniable.

IWCN is an important factor in the business climate of the city of Groningen, and the north of the Netherlands more broadly. Eight and a half years after our founding, IWCN is now a foundation with a robust board, including representatives from local organisations, universities and businesses.

With the addition of integrated social and informational activities for internationals provided through our merger with City Central and Connect International, IWCN is truly a one-stop shop for newcomers to the north for every step of their journey.