Meet Minnesota’s new consul

Eivind Heiberg steps into diplomacy, succeeding Gary Gandrud as Honorary Consul General

Photo: Leslee Lane Hoyum As CEO of Sons of Norway, Heiberg already works building bridges between Norway and the U.S.

Photo: Leslee Lane Hoyum
As CEO of Sons of Norway, Heiberg already works building bridges between Norway and the U.S.

Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn.

Eivind Heiberg, 44, a native of Halden, Norway, recently was named Honorary Consul General for Norway by his His Excellency Ambassador Kåre R. Aas on a visit to the Sons of Norway Headquarters in Minneapolis, Minn. Heiberg replaces Gary Gandrud, who has stepped down after seven years; he succeeded Walter Mondale.

Heiberg likely is the youngest person to serve in the position since Norway established a diplomatic presence in Minnesota in 1906. Ambassador Aas stressed that Heiberg’s background in trade associations made him the best-qualified candidate, adding that “it’s not a downside being 44.”

The Honorary Consulate General provides information about Norway and Norwegian-American relations to the pubic. Among its charges are education and business relations between Norway and the Upper Midwest, both of which are close to Heiberg’s heart.

“As with all endeavors,” Heiberg said, “it’s essential to connect with all the key stakeholders here and abroad. We’re talking about university administrators, students, corporate leaders, or organizations vested in their Norwegian or American roots. We need to do the best job possible to bring them together.

“As for education, the Midwest offers some of the most robust opportunities for study a student can achieve,” continued Heiberg. “The consulate can serve as a catalyst for bringing together leaders in education to see how we can better recruit Norwegian students and send Americans to Norway. But once Norwegian students are here, we can work with greater effort to show them that the consulate is their ‘first call for help’ when it comes to passports, issues about being a student in the United States, and more. Hopefully, we can offer ‘meet and greets’ at the various schools and extend a welcoming hand.”

Heiberg is very pleased with the direction the Upper Midwest Chapter of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC) has taken with new, younger, and revitalized leadership. “The consulate has a very good relationship with NACC,” said Heiberg. “NACC, along with Norway House and many others, has established very good connections with Norwegian and American companies. Each nation has its own business customs, and it’s up to all of us to work together to understand them. In this age of high tech, we occasionally need to sit back, pick up a phone, or have a face-to-face meeting with stakeholders in order to create and encourage better understanding. Through it all, there should be no doubt the consulate will be the first to help.”

Heiberg first came to the United States to study at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., where he earned degrees in business administration and mass communications. In 2002, Heiberg joined Sons of Norway, a fraternal insurance and financial product corporation, founded in 1895 by Norwegian immigrants in Minneapolis. Heiberg was appointed chief executive officer in 2009; he will continue in those duties while serving as Honorary Consul General.

The Honorary Consulate General in Minneapolis primarily serves the State of Minnesota, but assists Honorary Consulates in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and North and South Dakota. The office of the Consulate remains at 901 Marquette Ave. South, Suite 2750, Minneapolis. Inquiries are taken at (612) 332-3338 or at hcg.minneapolis@mfa.no.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 25, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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