SALT LAKE CITY -- S. George Simon brings a diverse background in economic development, trade relations, and product development to his position as the Honorary Consul to Hungary. Simon’s experiences span from time as a performer with a Hungarian folk dance group to his current role as Managing Director of Q Life Sciences. Simon’s academic background includes an undergraduate degree in finance with a minor in business economics, and he is a graduate of the International Business Management Program at UCLA.
Simon hails from Los Angeles, California but he has lived in Salt Lake City for the past 20 years since moving to the valley to work for Myriad Genetics. It was during his time with Myriad that Simon negotiated and constructed one of the largest start-up financings in the biotech industry, Myriad’s $82 million joint venture with Hitachi and Oracle. Even before this historic deal, Simon made lasting contributions to each sector he found himself working within. Simon’s first position out of college was as a marketing officer for the New Zealand Consulate-General, promoting New Zealand exports to the United States. This job was the opposite of what Simon envisioned as he originally aspired to work with the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Ultimately, however, this experience led him to take a job at the Canadian Consulate General in LA, where he worked for seven years. It was during those years that Simon found himself gravitating toward the blossoming biotech industry. This interest led him to prepare and publish an important white paper about biotech’s influence on trade and economic development between Canada and the U.S.
Though he calls both California and Utah home, Simon’s connection with Hungary runs deep and he is proud of his Hungarian heritage. Simon’s parents are from Hungary, and Simon is fluent in the Hungarian language. In fact, when Simon started kindergarten in the U.S., he didn’t speak a word of English. This language and heritage is something he has passed down to his four children as well, three of whom hold Hungarian citizenship. Simon and his family maintain their connections to fellow Hungarians by hosting annual parties and other events at their home, creating a community that includes not only Hungarian ex-pats but also business colleagues and other friends. This community-building began even before Simon was appointed as an Honorary Consul. In 2002, Simon was asked to host a reception for the Hungarian Winter Olympic team. Hosting the Olympic athletes and the former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary in his home is a memory that Simon treasures.
As the Honorary Consul to Hungary, Simon’s primary goal is to connect Hungarians in Utah with helpful resources. Simon, with assistance from his wife, runs the consulate office out of his home. Due to Schengen treaty regulations, they can no longer process visas and passports. As a result, Simon primarily works on notarizing and authorizing signatures for Hungarians in Utah and connecting them with contacts and resources. Simon is dedicated to continuing this vital work of building strong connections between Utah and Hungary.
SALT LAKE CITY – Meet James T. Burton, Kirton McConkie shareholder and German Honorary Consul to Utah.
German is the third most common language spoken in the State of Utah according to Ben Blatt from Slate Magazine, and is included as an option for dual language immersion at two elementary schools in the state. Utah’s German ties date back to the mid-1800s when multiple Germans immigrated to Utah, including the renowned Karl G. Maeser, founder of Brigham Young University. Additionally, Utah is home to Christkindlmarkt-SLC, a well-known traditional German Christmas market held at This is the Place Heritage Park each December. Utah is also home to a German appointed and U.S. Department of State approved Honorary German Consul, James T. Burton. This appointment is an honor from Germany not only for Mr. Burton but also to the entire State of Utah which has built strong ties with the country.
Prior to Mr. Burton’s appointment as the German Honorary Consul to Utah, he participated in consular duties as the unofficial German Honorary Vice Consul to Utah. The former German Honorary Consul is Charles Dahlquist, who served as the first President of the Utah Consular Corps, a former National Commissioner for Boy Scouts of America and the former General Young Men’s President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mr. Dahlquist and Mr. Burton met each other at Kirton McConkie where Mr. Dahlquist is also a shareholder. Germany has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for diplomats, which was extended to 67 for Mr. Dahlquist so that he could personally have a hand in choosing the next German Honorary Consul to Utah. Mr. Burton was recommended by Mr. Dahlquist, and after careful consideration and an interview by the German Consul General, he was approved by the German Foreign Mission and U.S. State Department in 2014 to become the next German Honorary Consul to Utah. Mr. Burton values his relationship with Mr. Dahlquist so much that he even named his youngest son Charlie after him.
Mr. Burton’s family connection to Germany is generations deep. His grandfather served a mission in Germany for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Following this, he later served as the president to the Church’s European Mission twice, and while in this position ordained Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf as a missionary. Mr. Burton’s father followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by serving his own mission in German-speaking Switzerland, after having lived many years in Germany as a youth. Many of Mr. Burton’s family members, including one of his brothers and a brother-in-law, all served missions in Germany. Although he is not German himself, Mr. Burton grew up with a deep love for Germany and the German people. He was thrilled when his time came to serve a mission for his church and he was also called to serve in Germany.
One of the reasons that Mr. Burton enjoys his service as German Honorary Consul to Utah is because of the opportunity to stay connected to the country and people. Mr. Burton takes advantage of every opportunity to use his knowledge of the German language. He still practices German and speaks German with the 30-40 Germans who use the passport and other services of the German Honorary Consulate in Utah every month.
Even though his consulate office and legal office are in the same building, Mr. Burton takes care to ensure that he keeps his duties for his positions separate. However, he also realizes these positions don’t exist entirely independently. “Without Kirton McConkie,” he explained, “I couldn’t be a consul. They provide the assistance and office space to make this service possible. Kirton McConkie did the same for Charles when he was the German Honorary Consul before me. I want to thank them for their public service and support.”
Serving as the German Honorary Consul to Utah as well as the Vice-President to the Utah Consular Corps is time-consuming. Mr. Burton shares that consuls, such as himself, form the “necessary and valuable bridge” between their country of representation, the state, and various organizations. As a bridge, consuls are able to understand culture, languages, issues and willingly help those involved in the exchange to feel comfortable.
Utah is an appealing state for Germany and other countries to work with because of its strong economy and educated workforce – unemployment is low and Utah runs consistently fiscally in the black. Of course, the relationship is reciprocal: Germany is a strong partner for Utah because it is one of the largest economies and exporters in the world.
SALT LAKE CITY-- In March 2020, the State of Utah hosted a Japanese delegation primed for spreading awareness of business endeavors amid efforts to increase trade relations between Japan’s archipelago and Utah’s mountainous region. Two flagship events welcomed the foreign visitors hosted first by World Trade Center Utah and then Utah Valley University. These events could not have been done without the unassailable partnership from key community resources, such as Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy, the Utah Governor’s Office for Economic Development, World Affairs Councils of America, Whitmore Global Management Center, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver. Over the course of two days, both events gathered internationally-driven and locally-based individuals to share their insight into U.S.-Japan relations, highlighting the mediary niche Utah maintains in this dynamic. As was iterated several times, Utah’s relation to Japan is crucial to the mutual success of both trading partners and remains a pillar to forging lasting relations. Despite mild concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic and its detrimental impact to trade relations, many panelists reassured the overall effects of the rapidly spreading disease would not overwhelm the trading partnership.
World Trade Center Utah held the first panel discussion in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City on March 10, 2020. Our presence was warmly welcomed by Felecia Maxfield-Barrett (Executive Director, Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy), Shanti Shoji (Director of Programs, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA), Miles Hansen (President & CEO, World Trade Center Utah), and Franz Kolb (Director of Diplomacy and International Protocol in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development). Its panelists included Ambassador James Zumwalt (Distinguished Senior Fellow, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA), Yasuhiro Uozumi (Executive Director, Keidanren USA), and Lee Carter (CEO, Rakuten Bank America). Our entourage was an illustrious collectivity of representatives with experience spanning the globe. While Mr. Zumwalt provided keen insight from time working in the U.S. Department of State, Mr. Uozumi and Mr. Carter shared experiences conducting business between Utah and Japan and the fruits of their labors.
Mr. Zumwalt spoke first about the ties which strengthen U.S.-Japan relations. As a former Deputy Chief of Mission in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, his presentation was especially relevant. He identified four main areas of overlap between U.S. and Japanese objectives: democracy, rule of law, rules-based international order, and strong economic ties. He continued that the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan is the longest bilateral security treaty since the Treaty of Westphalia, housing more U.S. troops in Japan than any other country in the world. Mr. Zumwalt ended with a pro-Japanese sentiment, stating roughly 80% of both civilian populations believe maintaining diplomatic relations is essential. Mr. Uozumi spoke next, highlighting the business role Keidanren assumes in its international operations to emphasize exporting, foreign direct investment (FDI), and economic development and growth. This mantra was most evidently demonstrated in his 2019 U.S. tour, meeting with numerous U.S. governors and forging trade relations in states such as Maryland, Tennessee, Minnesota, and Utah. Mr. Carter concluded the panel discussion by explaining the history and mission behind Rakuten and its e-commerce foundation. He praised Utah for its unique workforce specializing in international experiences which enhance the professional trajectory. The gathering was a wonderful opportunity to bring together key representatives from nonprofit, private, and governments sectors.
The following day, the delegation traveled to Utah Valley University to host a second panel discussion, this time with alternative views on Utah-Japan relations: Osamu Taki (Chief Executive Director, JETRO Los Angeles), Benjamin Hart (Deputy Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development), and Bryce Hunt (Customer Success Manager, Podium). We were once again welcomed by official co-sponsors of the event: Baldomero Lago (Chief International Officer, Utah Valley University), Miles Hansen (President & CEO, World Trade Center Utah), Midori Takeuchi (Consul-General of Japan in Denver), and Shanti Shoji (Director of Programs, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA). Mr. Hansen emphasized Utah’s commitment to becoming a “full partner” with Japan amid the negative effects of the pandemic. Audience participation involved a greater number of students and faculty bolstering the venue’s academic intent, contrasting the demographic of the previous day. Madame Consul-General Midori Takeuchi stressed the timely relevance of democratic principles such as freedom, diplomacy, and human rights and how these attributes drive the success of the U.S.-Japan treaties. Mr. Taki, representing JETRO (Japanese External Trade Organization), affirmed his allied position with Silicon Slopes to focus on themes such as healthcare technology and infrastructure improvements. Mr. Hart asserted that Utah’s “workforce is at the heart of economic growth” and reiterated that COVID-19 will come and go, but our trading relations will outlast the pandemic. Ms. Hunt paralleled Utah’s business growth with its family growth, maintaining that both models mirror one another.
Utah Consular Corps is equally committed to ensuring Utah-Japan relations endure across all aspects. Our goal aims to increase our consular ranks in the State of Utah, further connecting our state with the rest of the world. We hope to solidify these relations by having an Honorary Consul to Japan appointed in Utah who is vetted by the Japanese government and accredited through the U.S. Department of State. Part of our mission includes the expansion of our consular ranks and we do this by submitting recommendation letters to the respective embassies to facilitate the process of finding qualified individuals to fulfill these important roles. If you know anyone who might possess the qualities and characteristics attendant to an honorary diplomat, please contact us at email@example.com or 385-831-0638.
The designation of “Honorary Consul” might seem like a formality -- nominal in nature, an arcane diplomatic convention. However, Jonathon Tichy, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Salt Lake City, thinks the title can be misleading: there is real, substantive work that goes into building relationships that connect Utah to the nations of the world. “It’s not just a fancy name to give somebody who’s been supportive of another country,” he explains. “It has substance to it.”
Originally from Utah County, Tichy grew up in Orem and graduated from Orem High School. In college, an international focus drove his studies: he has a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in public policy with an emphasis in international trade and foreign policy from BYU. After graduating with his Masters, Tichy leveraged his global savvy as a special State Department appointee stationed at the American Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic.
Tichy is of Czech descent, and he cites his family as his main connection to the country -- cousins and relatives still live in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. His in-country experience began with an LDS mission in the early 1990s followed by a year of work and graduate studies. Including his State Department assignment, Tichy has spent nearly eight years in the country.
While on State Department assignment in Prague, he worked as a political and economic advisor and senior staff aide (Chief-of-Staff) to the ambassador, assisting in speech writing and policy development and acting as a liaison to senior government officials at a critical time in Czech history. “Back in the 90s,” he remembers, “when a lot of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe were in the process of transitioning to democracy, there was a lot of activity going on -- we were trying to be supportive of the democratic forces in those countries and make sure that they could take root and build a firm foundation for the future.”
After finishing his State Department appointment in 2000, Tichy had plans of returning to the Foreign Service and continuing to work overseas. But sometimes, he noted, “life just kind of has a funny way of sending you in another direction.” Instead, Tichy decided to attend law school at BYU and then enter the job market, working as an international lawyer in Las Vegas and then in Salt Lake City. After a 13-year stint at a large firm in downtown Salt Lake City where he was head of the international and government relations practice group, Tichy went independent and now operates his own international firm, Envoy Legal and Consulting International.
As for his consular duties, Tichy feels his experience in international matters gave him a solid foundation for performing his consular duties. In 2008, Tichy helped organize a visit to Utah for the Czech Ambassador to the UN. During that visit, he remembers, “[the ambassador] realized how dynamic Utah was and came to believe that it would make sense for the Czech Republic to establish an honorary consulate here.” Shortly after the visit, Tichy was invited to begin the process of accreditation as the Honorary Consul and was officially installed in May 2010. Now, nearly a decade in to his services, he defines his responsibilities with a helpful acronym. The duties of an Honorary Consul, he says, can be explained by the “Three Cs”: Consular, Cultural and Commercial.
As a consular officer, Tichy assists Czech citizens in emergency situations. Whether it’s a lost passport, an injury, or legal trouble, the consul can help Czech citizens get the help they need and can replace and authenticate documents and work with local law enforcement and others. “The idea is to be that safety net for the Czech community, whether they are people who are living and working here, or people who are just visiting,” Tichy says. “My job is just to make sure that their rights are protected and observed and that they’re treated fairly in accordance with the law or to help them get any critical assistance they need while they are in Utah.”
It’s not all crisis mitigation and paperwork, though. Tichy also works closely with Utah’s vibrant Czech community to support cultural outreach and other activities throughout the state. From a successful Czech language school to a traditional annual Saint Nicholas program, Tichy helps to “promote the good name of the Czech Republic here in Utah.”
A highlight of this cultural outreach is the “Czech That Film” Festival, a travelling event that brings contemporary Czech films and award-winning directors to select venues around North America. The festival has been screening annually in Salt Lake City since 2011 and drawing enthusiastic audiences from both within and outside the Czech community. Tichy sees the festival as an important mark of a strong community. “When we started that program,” Tichy says, “they took the film tour to New York, Los Angeles, and a couple of other bigger cities. They didn’t really think a city the size of Salt Lake would be able to garner much interest in it.” This assumption, of course, was incorrect: Salt Lake has been one of the top cities every single year of the tour in terms of audience participation.
Finally, in the commercial sphere, Tichy looks for opportunities to promote trade between the Czech Republic and Utah by facilitating contacts and connections between Utah and Czech businesses. It’s a case, Tichy feels, that is not very hard to make: “When I deal with or consult with Czech companies or the Czech government,” he says, “I can talk about all of the great things happening in Utah, in terms of our strong economy, our hardworking people. I can get them interested in taking a serious look at Utah as a place where they might want to focus more resources and efforts or maybe expand their business. They see it as a good place to be when they come to America.”
Above all, Tichy sees the recognition of Honorary Consuls as an affirmation of Utah’s strengths. “Choosing to appoint an Honorary Consul in a state like Utah is basically a manifestation of the importance that country places on Utah as a strategic interest,” he explains. “They’re recognizing that Utah is a place where great things are happening, where there’s momentum. It's a credit to the state to have a consular corps that has as many members as it does.”
UCC's Honorary Consul of Brazil, Gary Neeleman was featured in the BYU Kennedy Center Bridges Magazine. You can read about his interview here: https://kennedy.byu.edu/part-and-parcel-of-the-neeleman-legacy/