President and CEO, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Finney promotes open-source economic development, including freely sharing knowledge, ideas and best practices. Since January, his team has combed the state and assembled a diverse group of 15 agencies to brainstorm ideas on how to move economic development forward in Michigan and then put them into practice. For example, he cites “Live Work Detroit,” a program that in March exposed 250+ Michigan college students to the city to encourage them to remain in the state after graduation. Next is expanding the pilot program to urban centers in Michigan, including Midland, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Flint and Benton Harbor.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
“The MEDC has three major areas of focus. The first is working with entrepreneurs throughout the state and, in partnership with the various regional economic development partners, helping them with access to talent, funding, facilities, consulting services, etc.
“Priority No. 2 is to assist existing businesses with growth, with a focus on eliminating the Michigan Business Tax for a 6-percent flat tax to allow businesses to reduce their taxes by between 70 and 80 percent. To suddenly have their costs go down dramatically creates an opportunity for them to invest further in their growth and expansion. We will supply them with a variety of other services: business-to-business consulting, export strategy support, workforce development, talent enhancement and market research.
“And the third piece of our program really is about attracting business. We know there are businesses out there that are in a growth mode and we want to be sure they know Michigan has opportunities for them to grow and expand. We have a whole variety of approaches that we’ll use, the most important being peer-to-peer marketing.”
Prior to becoming head of the MEDC, Finney was president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK, a public-private partnership that advances innovation-based economic development in the greater Ann Arbor, MI, region. Finney also was president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise, Rochester, N.Y.; vice president of Emerging Business Sectors at the MEDC; senior vice president and general manager at Thomson Saginaw; and assistant city manager of Saginaw, MI.
• Master’s degree, human resources, Central Michigan University
• Bachelor’s degree, business administration, Saginaw Valley State University
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE
“At SPARK, the leadership encouraged staff to be very entrepreneurial, take risks, learn from their mistakes, improve and move forward. I’m very much trying to take that same attitude with our team at MEDC. We want our folks to take a little bit of risk, not to do dumb things, but to do things that really make sense.”
TOWARD THE FUTURE
Finney’s leadership efforts at the MEDC include promoting the growth of emerging tech sectors within the state. “People are bullish on Michigan’s future because we have the ingredients emerging sectors need to thrive: competitive business climate, tremendous talent and high-tech infrastructure.”
– Interviewed by Ilene Wolff