Not all Finns and Finnish-Americans are drawn to colder climates – some of them have ended up down south as well! Our Honorary Consul in Atlanta, John D. Saunders, introduces the history and current presence of Finns in the southern state of Georgia.
There is no available record of any significant Finnish migration to the State of Georgia except for a group of Finns from Brooklyn, New York, who moved to Georgia in 1921 to establish a cooperative farm in the town of Jesup, in Southeast Georgia not far from the Georgia coast. They purchased 3,600 acres and formed a cooperative farming association. The name of the cooperative was “The Wayne Produce Association” named after Wayne County, Georgia. The purpose of the cooperative was to engage in agricultural pursuits which initially included cabbage, turnips and sweet potatoes. After 1931 some of the Finns in Jesup started leaving but there is little history of the cooperative. There is a record that in 1966 the cooperative was dissolved and the land was sold.
The Finnish presence in Georgia began in significant numbers in the early 1970’s. Georgia was, and still is, the number one pulp producing state in the United States, and Alabama is second. The paper mills in Georgia were good candidates for Finnish paper making technology and attracted in the early days Finnish companies selling technology including Nokia Inc. (in the pre-phone days when it was selling process control systems), Ahlstrom, Tampella, Valmet, and other Finnish companies selling instrumentation. The State of Georgia is the location of the largest paper making and trade association, “Tappi” (the Technical Association Pulp & Paper Industry). Finnish companies are very active in that organization, and they support the Institute for Paper, Science and Technology at Georgia Tech, a major academic institution emphasizing paper making technology and research. From the original companies selling Finnish technology, the Finnish companies have expanded into communication, software, and other fields. Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Georgia State and other universities in Georgia have been successful in attracting Finnish students.
The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and the Honorary Consulate in Atlanta sponsored the Finnish Independence Day Celebration on December 6, 2017. There were in attendance 263 people which was one of the largest celebrations of Finnish Independence in the U.S. The keynote speaker was His Excellency Jaakko Laajava, the former Ambassador of Finland to the United States who retired several years ago from the Finnish foreign ministry.
Estimated number of Finns / Finnish-Americans living in the area:
300 in the State of Georgia
Local Finnish / Finnish-American companies in the area:
Local Finnish/ Finnish-American organizations/clubs/associations/societies in the area:
Where to learn Finnish in your state?:
The only source is private teachers or tutors. There is no formal Finnish language teaching available.
Local Finnish Chamber of Commerce:
Local Finnish themed activities/festivals/celebrations:
Current Honorary Consul is John D. Saunders. Finland has had diplomatic representation in Georgia since 1949.
Fun Finn Fact of the State:
The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and the Honorary Consul of Finland in Atlanta, John D. Saunders, were successful in a fundraising effort to commission a sculpture in Piedmont Park depicting the dramatic win of Lasse Viren in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal when he won his fourth gold medal and was victorious over two New Zealand and one German runners all of whom finished within one meter of each other at the finish line. The sculpture has attracted much interest among local Finns and Finnish visitors to Atlanta.
Text by John D. Saunders