From West Michigan to The Netherlands

Paul Heule, soon to be the new Honorary Consol of the Dutch Consulate in West Michigan, is many things.

He's a businessman. As President of Eenhoorn, a real estate investment and management company located at 231 W. Fulton, Heule works to acquire, renovate and manage properties throughout the country. He started the company with his father, Carl Heule, in 1988 as "a side project," but Eenhoorn has grown into a successful and sizable organization.

He's a family man. Heule has been married for 26 years and has five girls, ranging in age from 7-20. On the coffee table in his chic, modern office is a stone with the words, "My Dad Rocks!" scrawled in black paint -- a gift from his youngest.

He's a citizen of both The Netherlands as well as the United States. Heule was born in The Netherlands and moved to the United States to follow his two siblings to Calvin College where he studied mathematics. His parents also moved to Michigan shortly after. He is active both here, with his business, as well as in his homeland, where he has an office he travels to every few months.

And now, he will be active in bridging the gap between both the country he was born in and the country he presently calls home as West Michigan's new consul for the Dutch Consulate. The Dutch government and Queen appoint the position after an extensive selection process taking about one year. Heule explains that the Dutch government looks for a person who is active in industry, and able to apply their "networks to be able to advance the betterment of Dutch industry, as well as the American industry" in the area the Consul is stationed. Character, reputation and personal history are also important factors. Heule will be inaugurated at an invite-only ceremony on Nov. 10 at the Van Andel Institute.

The Dutch Consulate itself "has certain functions," Heule says. "(The functions) being the administrative ones, that is, if you lose your passport, we need to try to accommodate and support (you). But more importantly, we are somewhat of a liaison between Dutch and West Michigan industry, as well as the arts. The concept here is to promote business ties and continue to develop (those ties) on an ongoing basis, as well as promote the arts."

There are several Dutch Consulates in the country (about 25, Heule estimates) including Hawaii and Puerto Rico, but Michigan is the only state with two, given Michigan's rich Dutch heritage. Heule explains the Consulate as being the "business arm," while the Embassy is the "political arm."  Heule's role as the new Consul is to facilitate and foster that business.

"I guess the thing that excites me about the position and (the reason) why I took the position is that we have a tremendous heritage from the '50s and '60s," Heule says. "A lot of people came over right after World War II and there's this foundation here. However, not much has been focused on the 'New Dutch.'"

The New Dutch that Heule speaks of refers to the innovative technology being explored in The Netherlands as well as in West Michigan, part of why Heule has elected to have his inauguration at the Van Andel Institute.

"I feel that's kind of an example of the Dutch heritage that has been created by some really great companies here, but also the state-of-the-art, leading-edge type of business and research environment that I think is often overlooked," he says.

He adds, "I'm hoping that's one thing in this role that I can help promote. If you look at energy, in Holland (Michigan), they do windmill technology. Europe is using that technology extensively. That's a good example of where maybe we can help make some contacts. If people in The Netherlands are looking for that composite material and potentially reach out to all the Consulates, we would be able to put them in touch. That's kind of, in a nutshell, an example of what our job would be."

Heule is also interested in exposing more Dutch contemporary art, calling art "a bit of an addiction of mine." He hopes to bring a contemporary art exhibit of modern Dutch artists to West Michigan within the next year and a half.

"I'm proud of my heritage on both continents," he says, "and I hope I am able to put that to use. I am very thankful for what America has done for me, and I wouldn't be here today without the opportunities I was given here. Likewise, what I was taught in The Netherlands has taught me different values and perspectives. I hope to be able to give something back here and where I was born, also."


Paul Heule (6)

Photographs by Brian Kelly -All Rights Reserved
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