EDITORIAL: SAVE THE CONSULATE GENERAL OF LOS ANGELES
By Tomi Hinkkanen, Los Angeles, CA
Photograph by Jonny Kahleyn
Plans are in the works to move all or some functions of the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles to Silicon Valley, some 350 miles (550 kilometers) north of LA. The worst scenario would be the complete shutdown of the consulate in Los Angeles. This is a very bad idea that should be soundly rejected. You can help by signing the petition below this message.
Finland has had representation in the Los Angeles area in one form or another for over 60 years. The Office of the Vice Consul of Finland opened in Los Angeles in 1948. The first Honorary Vice Consul, later Consul, was the legendary Yrjö A. Paloheimo. The Consulate General offices have been located in the Century City section of Los Angeles since the early 1980’s. Over the years the consulate has promoted Finnish arts, education, technology, businesses, culture, tourism, and even Santa Claus. The Consulate General in LA represents 13 Western States that have 70 million inhabitants. Some 7,500 to 9,000 Finnish citizens live in its close proximity. Out of those, about 4,000 Finns call Southern California home (versus approximately 2,000 in the Bay Area).
Southern California has a highly motivated, dedicated, caring, and diverse Finnish community encompassing individuals of many professional and socio-economic backgrounds that range from regular hard working Finns to artists, painters, sculptors, actors, filmmakers, musicians, researchers, scientists, students, educators, business people, lawyers, medical professionals, retirees and, yes, even us journalists. The Consulate General of Finland has been the magnet that has brought all these people together. Gatherings sponsored by the Consulate General have been extremely beneficial as they offer Finnish and American experts of various fields a chance to meet and interchange knowledge and experience. Under Consul General Kirsti Westphalen, the consulate has been especially active in organizing events around various themes important to the success of Finland and it played an essential role in promoting FinnFest in San Diego, held in August 2011.
Trends come and go, and the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles has always adapted accordingly. The ex-Consul General Maria Serenius was instrumental in starting the Global Access Program (GAP) in collaboration with the Finnish Technology Agency Tekes and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Each year GAP brings Finnish high tech companies to UCLA where fully employed MBA students create strategic business plans for those companies. The program has been extremely successful. During the last 13 years, some 120 Finnish companies have participated in GAP with many been able to expand their operations to the United States thanks to the program. Tarja Halonen, the president of Finland, has just acknowledged the importance of GAP by granting its director, UCLA Anderson Business School professor Bob Foster, a Knight, First Class, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland medal. Furthermore, the GAP program has been extended for the next three years. This would not have happened without the help of the Consulate General.
Recently, the Consulate General has recognized the emergence and importance of green economy and green technology that offer great possibilities for Finnish companies, and it has acted as a liaison between the Finnish clean tech cluster and the American know-how in the area. The Consulate General has also been a major promoter of the Finnish education model (which has emerged as a new Finnish export) by organizing seminars and gatherings on the theme.
The Consulate General of Los Angeles has, for many years, worked closely with all Finnish public and non-governmental entities such Finnode, Finpro, Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce, FinnFest as well as many others in the spirit of House of Finland. All parties have been extremely satisfied by this co-operation and with its quality and direction. The Finnish community has been served outstandingly by the competent staff of the Consulate General.
California is the eight largest economy of the world. Los Angeles particularly as the second largest city of the United States and the second largest media market offers the best possible location for the Consulate General of Finland in the Western United States. Los Angeles has a large and diverse population. Trends are born here. It is estimated that over 50% of the internet content is generated here. Hollywood, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and vast array of institutions of higher education such as UCLA and USC are all in Los Angeles. The lovely residence of the Consul General in the Bel Air section is fully paid for and owned by the Finnish Government and offers an excellent showcase for Finland. Los Angeles is the place to be. Without putting down the good people of Silicon Valley, it is clear that Finland would not get anywhere near the visibility, attention and results there it gets in Los Angeles. A consulate in the far reaches of Silicon Valley wouldn’t even be practical to a casual Finnish tourist visiting San Francisco. It would only serve the interests of high tech industry (who are already represented there by Finnode and Finpro). We recognize the need to save money, but it would be penny wise and pound foolish to close down the Consulate General in Los Angeles which best embodies the direction all Finnish representations abroad are aiming for, namely promoting a very competitive Finland. The closure of the Consulate General in Los Angeles would not be in the best interests of Finland. Therefore, I urge you to join me and reject these plans. The Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles is near and dear to us and we want to keep it right here, where it rightfully belongs.
Please sign the petition below this message to save the Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles.
Publisher – Finntimes