Little did John Parkerson know that his work with the international promotions council of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce would eventually lead him to play a vital role in the opening of business, cultural and economic exchanges between Georgia and Hungary as the nation’s top representative in the Southeast.
A delegation from the chamber including Mr. Parkerson, Thomas Harden, president of Clayton State University and Sherryl Nelson, former director of the university’s Spivey Hall, made a tour of Central and Eastern Europe in 2003 including stops in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.
“The Hungarians were among the most receptive to that mission,” Mr. Parkerson told GlobalAtlanta in a video interview. “From those initial contacts we saw this as an opportunity for maintaining a relationship.”
In Budapest, Hungary’s capital, the delegates formed a partnership with Franz Liszt Academy of Music, which Mr. Parkerson described as “the premier music academy for Central Europe.
The relationship they forged has resulted in a number of performances by Hungarian artists at Spivey Hall.
Opportunities for maintaining this relationship increased with the opening of a nonstop Delta Air Lines Inc. flight from New York to Budapest in May 2006. Local interest in hosting a Hungarian trade mission to Georgia continued to grow following the opening of the flight.
The Clayton County chamber, working with Kathe Falls, director of international trade at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, hosted a Hungarian trade mission in May 2007 composed of trade officials and AndrÃ¡s Simonyi, who was Hungary’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time.
The Hungarian dignitaries took part in a seminar hosted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to educate Atlanta businesspeople on the investment opportunities available in their country.
Mr. Simonyi swore in Mr. Parkerson as the first honorary consul for Hungary in Atlanta during a ceremony May 29. The new consul’s area of responsibility includes the four states of Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee.
Mr. Parkerson described his chief duty as facilitating trade between his area and Hungary.
“The Hungarian government perceived that I was someone who could assist them in providing representation in this part of the country,” he said. “They were interested in establishing trade and commercial ties to this four-state area in the Southeast.”
Due to Mr. Simonyi’s interest in American music, he also appointed banjo virtuoso BÃ©la Fleck, who is named for 20th century Hungarian composer BÃ©la BartÃ³k, an “honorary Hungarian,” though he has no Hungarian ancestry.
Later the same day, Mr. Simonyi himself took the stage, playing electric guitar with the Breeze Kings blues band at Sambuca Jazz CafÃ© on Piedmont Road. Mr. Parkerson witnessed another performance when he accompanied a group of the Hungarian delegates to one of Atlanta’s nighttime blues venues.
“We had an interesting night at Blind Willie’s,” Mr. Parkerson said. “The ambassador decided he wanted to challenge the band to allow him to play, and he played with the band and we all had a great time.”
Mr. Parkerson predicted that business traffic between Georgia and Hungary will increase this fall, as it will be the first major European business season since the opening of the honorary consulate in Atlanta, adding that American tourists have a strong interest in Hungary.
“Budapest seems more genuine,” than some European tourist hubs, Mr. Parkerson said. “There are increasing numbers of tourists and they’re extremely welcome.”
He added that visitors to Budapest would be “pleasantly surprised” by the city and its people.
“The original old buildings from the Habsburg empire, when Hungary was part of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, have all been wonderfully preserved,” Mr. Parkerson said, adding that “Hungarians are well-educated and consider themselves among the most cultured (people) in Europe.”
One of the most famous Hungarian inventions, the Rubik’s Cube, was showcased in Budapest Oct. 5-7 during the world championship tournament. The three-dimensional mind puzzle was invented by sculptor, architecture professor and Budapest native Ern Rubik in the 1980s, and has gained worldwide popularity as a fun brain-teaser.
Georgians interested in Hungary’s business and tourism opportunities should contact Mr. Parkerson.
Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
John Parkerson, honorary consul for Hungary in Atlanta (404) 715-6937