Houthoff’s Houston representative Caroline ten Cate interviews Erin McKelvey, Executive Director at European American Chamber of Commerce Texas


Erin McKelvey has extensive experience in association management having served for 11 years as Director of both the Dallas/Fort Worth and San Francisco Chapters of the French-American Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Erin served as Director of Programs & Member Relations at the Dallas Committee on Foreign Relations where she enjoyed interacting with the Council on Foreign Relations and other international think tanks to create policy-related

programming. Erin recently launched successful programs in Dallas such as EuroTech Talks and European American Flight Forum as innovation-focused business initiatives.

Erin’s prior business achievements include the launch and management of her own import company wholesaling high-end wine accessories nationwide through large and small-scale retailers, restaurants and online stores.

She also worked for Equifax as a bi-lingual analyst for Canadian data research.

Erin holds a degree in Marketing from Texas A&M University and a Certification in Non-Profit Mgmt. She is fluent in French.

“I know many European expats who decided to stay in Texas and
fuel the international growth with businesses of their own.”


Texas is traditionally known for the oil and gas industry, what else does Texas have to offer?

This is a great question. Many still see Texas as the wild frontier with cowboys, boots and pickups. You can still find real cowboys and lots of pickups, however, if you have been following economic news in recent years, you will have heard Texas mentioned as the 10th largest world economy if it were a country.

Tech, biotech, healthcare, construction, aerospace, mining, agriculture and financial services are strong economic drivers in Texas which is the only state to have two of the top five largest metropolitan areas (Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston) in the US. Fortune 500 corporations continue to move to Texas to benefit from lower taxes and cost of living for employees, a highly educated workforce and an excellent education system along with top-rated museums and cultural attractions.

Which opportunities do you see for European companies in Texas?

I know many European expats who decided to stay in Texas and fuel the international growth with businesses of their own. Texas has an innovation and entrepreneurial focus that is reminiscent of the Silicon Valley in the early days with big business and top universities supporting business mavericks.

Opportunities in tech, engineering, transportation, and construction are multiplying significantly.

When high-speed rail begins construction between Dallas and Houston, there is a projected need for over 10,000 welders alone. The construction industry here at the moment is one of the top industries. I recently had a request from Ohio to find 100 tons of cement per day for a project in West Texas. The construction industry here is booming and supplies of cement are in high demand and short supply.

The energy sector along with agriculture have always been important drivers in the economy, but Texas has also built-up wind and solar energy along with clean biotech sectors.

Looking at SXSW in Austin and EarthX in Dallas, which bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors and world-wide attention gives you a larger view of what is happening in the state, and European companies, many of whom have a lead on environmental sustainability initiatives, can find opportunities to lead here.

The vaccination rates in the US are going up and the President just launched new infrastructure and climate plans. While we haven’t yet left the pandemic behind us, the President did say ‘America is on the move’. What economic developments do you expect in the US in the coming years?

Americans are very ready to move beyond the loss of the pandemic and recuperate the future. The President’s economic plan is very aggressive both in terms of cost and opportunity. The US infrastructure needs to be a top priority to compete globally, and this initiative can bring America forward as well as offer opportunities for Europeans to partner with American companies on future projects.

Vaccine rollout and messaging to convince a larger portion of the US population to get vaccinated is key to bringing back low-income jobs and to stabilizing the economy. Supply chains worldwide are also key to stabilizing industries and offering growth.

The US Census Bureau ranked Texas the top exporting state in the US for the 19th consecutive year. With USD 279.3 billion in exports in 2020, Texas exports accounted for more than California and New York combined. The Netherlands appears as the top European export destination, ranked as the No. 7 trade partner, moving up two positions from previous years. What opportunities do you see for both Texas and the Netherlands in the coming years?

Sustainable and renewable innovations in oil, gas, agriculture and construction. Europeans lead the US in initiatives such as these and Texas has a tremendous business climate of innovation and education.  Europeans should be putting Texas on the top of their list to visit and

take advantage of the trade partnerships that have been put into place.

What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned in cross-cultural business and communication?

I have been involved in international business for years and have learned many lessons the hard way to be sure. I have always found it valuable to call on colleagues who may share the nationality of the person I am hearing from to take a second look at emails. My perception or translation of an email may not be at all in line with what the person intended to say, so it’s important to re-read documents and have an open mind.  Seventy percent of communication comes through body and facial language, so I have been delighted to have virtual discussions over the past months to enhance that communication.

From your personal experience, what would you say is most typical about doing business with the Dutch?

Working with the Dutch has been a pleasure so far! In my experience, the Dutch are open and objective as well as very professional and polite.  Their command of the English language is remarkable and puts Americans at ease very quickly.


Caroline ten Cate represents Houthoff in Houston, Texas. Her focus is on developing close ties with our local clients and firms to create new alliances and strengthen our network. Caroline works closely on this with both our New York and our Netherlands-based lawyers who visit Houston regularly. Caroline started her career as a lawyer 11 years ago, focusing on insolvency law and working in the restructuring practice.

“One of the things I have learned in the past few years of living and working abroad is that opening your mind to

another culture demands attention. Culture is so much  more than the food you eat, the language you speak and the common history you share. Culture determines for a large part who you are, what your views are and how you approach life. When you try to understand other cultures, a whole new world literally opens up. This also applies when doing business. Doing international business is more successful when you try to get to know the culture of your business partners. I believe that understanding the manners, motives and cultural background of your business partners contributes to successful cooperation.”

“I believe that understanding the manners, motives and cultural background of your business partners contributes to successful cooperation.”


The European American Chamber of Commerce opens business opportunities across all of Europe for US companies and provides access to the US market for European companies. The EACC has European affiliates in Paris, Lyon and Toulouse France, and the Netherlands. US Chapters include New York, Cincinnati, the Carolinas, Florida, and Texas with expansion plans for other US and EU cities.

Programs focus on EU-US trade policy, bi-lateral security and transatlantic relations in addition to business-focused topics on innovation across all sectors through our EuroTech Talks Series.

The EACC Texas held its first high-profile speaker event on 12 May with Erik Brattberg, director of the Europe Program and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. The event was moderated by Joanna Ridgway of Santander Bank, N.A. The European American Economic Conference at the SMU Tower Center and inaugural gala are scheduled for this autumn and the European American Flight Forum in March 2022.


After 41 years as a French-American Chamber in Dallas, the Board of Directors voted unanimously to transition to a European American Chamber of Commerce and expand to all of Texas.

In 2020, we were given time to rethink how we would emerge after the pandemic. With so many European companies in Texas and Texas corporations doing business 2019 when we created EuroTech Talks featuring technology speakers

from Ericsson, Nokia, Bell Flight and other European thought leaders in innovation. We followed that series with the planning of the European American Flight Forum across Europe, we felt the need to elevate our mission and serve a broader multinational base.

We had been testing the waters of becoming more European American since Our Members, like Airbus and EssilorLuxottica, now align more as Europeans, and the growing European business sector in Texas as well as

American corporations in tune with Europe were delighted with the announcement. The phrases “It’s long overdue in Texas” and “This makes sense” have been part of every conversation. We also heard that these corporations no longer have the time and resources to join and participate in multiple bilateral business organisations and they were delighted with the concept of a greater European-focused forum here.

The newly formed EACC Texas’ mission is to stimulate business and networking relations between Europe and the US. It plans to partner with the major economic development agencies, both in Texas and those focused on Europe, to create an online platform where European and Texas businesses can find the resources to facilitate their needs in one place.