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Dutch Buy Into US in a Big Way. As the US's No. 2 foreign investor, the Netherlands says it looks at long-term prospects

HAVE you filled the car with Shell gasoline lately? Do you own a Magnavox television? Use a Norelco shaver? Drink Lipton tea? Then you're using products that come to you because of investments made by the Netherlands.

Despite the relatively small size of their country, the Dutch are the second-largest direct investors in the United States - and have been for years.

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According to the US Commerce Department's latest figures, those for 1987, three countries account for 59 percent of foreign direct investment in the US: Britain with $75 billion, the Netherlands with $47 billion, and Japan with $33 billion.

And as 1992 approaches - the year when the European Community plans to have a truly common market - businessmen in the Netherlands should be looking toward the US, says Kersen de Jong, the managing director of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in the United States, Inc. ``The United States of America is a logical place to invest your money and create your markets as well.''

The Chamber and Arthur Young International, an accounting and consulting firm, have just released a report called ``Dutch Enterprise in the USA.'' It found that about 750 Dutch-owned businesses operate in the US - and they're not all huge, impersonal conglomerates by any means: More than half of those responding to the survey employ less than 50 people.

Almost two-thirds of the businesses surveyed showed a profit in their latest fiscal year. But there is room for improvement, the report added. While the dollar has declined by 50 percent against the Dutch guilder in the last three years, few Dutch companies have taken advantage of the situation by manufacturing in the US and then exporting.

The Netherlands has been a nation of traders for centuries. When coming to the US, it's natural that many Dutch would locate in New York (known as New Amsterdam in the 1600s). But other parts of the country are increasingly attracting them, such as the Sunbelt. In fact, 18 percent of Dutch businesses in the US have headquarters in the Southern state of Georgia alone. In all likelihood, says the report, this is ``due to the availability of low-cost and nonunion labor, the proliferation of suitable work sites, convenient national and international air travel, and the importance of Atlanta as a burgeoning hub of business.''

WHAT kind of businessmen are the Dutch? The survey characterizes them as long-term thinkers with strong company loyalty (``the Dutch typically remain with a company for their entire careers''). They favor management by executive boards rather than by individuals, are more internationally oriented than Americans, and make business decisions more cautiously.

Perhaps one reason most people don't notice the Dutch presence in the US is that often they aren't present in person. About three-quarters of the Dutch companies have Americans in their senior executive positions. Nearly half employ Americans as their chief executive officers.

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Paul Massa is an example of an American chief executive of a Dutch company. He heads up Elsevier US Holdings, Inc., a publishing company. Since the world's largest publishing market is the English language, Mr. Massa says it is natural that Elsevier's parent company would decide to invest in the US.

``It was obvious that they would have to come to the US and acquire some businesses in order to really grow as a major international publisher,'' he says.

Elsevier's parent company is now the world's largest scientific-technical publisher. One of the services Elsevier provides is the abstracts of the Congressional Information Service. With these, a researcher can quickly determine if Congress has ever published anything on a particular subject, when it was published, what the report was about, and even order the report if it looks interesting.

``That is the kind of unique market niche that we look for,'' says Massa.

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