‘Ambition level of northern business community can rise considerably’

The Groningen, North and Central Drenthe region does too little with the economic potential in the area. That’s what economists from Rabobank say in a report on the area. The region has grown less rapidly than other parts of the country over the past 25 years. According to the researchers, Drenthe and Groningen can play a leading role when it comes to sustainability, the energy transition and green technology.

The report of Rabobank Kring Groningen & Drenthe is about the metropolitan region of Groningen. The municipalities of Aa and Hunze, Assen, Noordenveld, Tynaarlo and Midden-Drenthe also belong to this region in the study. In the study, 33 people from the northern business community, education and healthcare were interviewed. NOM director Dina Boonstra, Mare Riemersma (board of the Drenthe College), Paul van der Wijk (chair of the board of the Wilhelmina Hospital Assen) and students from Groningen took part.

The researchers conclude that the ambition level of the northern business community can increase considerably. To do this, the region must shake off its unjustified modesty. “We get from our mother here in the North that we should not ‘gasp’ too much. That is a strength, but at the same time also a limitation, because sometimes you just have to blow your mind about what is possible here,” says Rabobank director Carlo Ezinga. According to the bank, the area ‘with its unique strength can play a decisive role in the new sustainable and inclusive economy’.

‘Keeping the lead on hydrogen’

The northern region is very suitable for becoming the sustainable energy region of our country: there is space, the infrastructure (roads and railways, ed.) is good and there is also enough knowledge in the area. The region can become a frontrunner in the production of green hydrogen and is already playing a leading role in the field of power production with wind and solar energy, the researchers say.

“In terms of infrastructure, we are perfectly positioned in the North if you look at a theme such as energy transition,” says Ezinga. “Only that is what they think of themselves in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. We still have a head start in the field of hydrogen, but we have to be careful that we maintain that position and that we are not soon overtaken left and right by other regions.”

It would be good for the Groningen, North and Central Drenthe regions if the government made the choice to fully implement the energy transition in this region, the researchers conclude. The bank emphasizes that speed in decision-making is necessary through good cooperation between government and business. Decisiveness encourages entrepreneurs to continue investing in the energy transition and sustainability.

Better collaboration

The researchers advise companies to join forces. By working together you are stronger when you sit at the table with important parties, is the advice. It is important for companies that they have close contact with government and education, because the latter two are very decisive when it comes to policy.

Better cooperation between business and education is necessary in any case, say the researchers. At the moment, both work too much independently of each other. As a result, knowledge about major social themes reaches the business community too little, and young talent also does not easily find their way from training to business. Schoolchildren and students should, among other things, meet people from the business world at an early stage.

‘Not being the underdog’

Bank director Ezinga also sees with sadness that many students, once they have graduated, leave for the Randstad. “And what do they say when you ask why they are leaving? ‘We would prefer to stay in the North, but there is simply nothing for us here’. Then you think: oh oh oh, what a missed opportunity, because there is of course enough in it the North.”

Ezinga is convinced that young people don’t know this has to do with northern modesty. Companies should go public much more often, he says. “We have to profile ourselves better, because otherwise the talent will leave for the Randstad.” Being prouder is important, he thinks. “Speaking out more, even when we’re in the west. Not always that underdog or that Calimero.”

Take the lead

The research also shows that it would be good for companies that are technologically advanced to take the lead. They can involve other companies in the transition to a more sustainable economy. According to Rabobank, this is particularly good for small and medium-sized businesses. Furthermore, the startup climate should be improved. Starting entrepreneurs are often innovative, but finding suitable financing is often difficult for startups.

The researchers also recommend investing in the leisure economy in rural areas in the Northern Netherlands. Healthy aging, in other words healthy aging, is also an important theme to invest in, the researchers recommend. Money must be spent on initiatives that can ensure that the elderly can live longer at home with good care, is the advice. Accessibility of the North from the rest of the Netherlands is very important in this regard.

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