The Miami-Dade Beacon Council has selected its next president and CEO.
After an extensive national search, the county’s public-private economic development organization has hired Michael A. Finney, a 30-year veteran whose past roles have included chief economic development executive for Michigan. He replaces Larry Williams, who stepped down in September after three years at the helm to become president and CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia.
Finney will start in his new job on June 1. Until then, Sheldon T. Anderson will continue as interim CEO.
“There are few opportunities throughout the United States that I felt made sense with my particular background,” Finney said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I love what the county has to offer. It has a strong technology base. It has industry sectors I am familiar with and it is a very well-regarded community ... with a lot of growth potential.”
Jaret L. Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig's Miami office and chair of the Beacon Council, led the 11-member search committee of business and community leaders who worked with placement firm Korn Ferry International and reviewed more than 200 resumes. Davis said the committee looked for three proficiencies in its new leader: traditional economic development such as global marketing, the ability to help scale up companies in technology and innovation, and community economic development, to ensure that all parts of the county share in the region’s economic prosperity.
“When we looked at [Finney’s] resume we got the inkling, but when we met him we were blown away by the innovation he has brought to his past positions and the thought leadership he has brought to each of those areas. We quickly realized he’s our guy,” Davis said. “Mike was our No. 1 choice by far and we are thrilled we have been able to get him on board.”
In addition to leading the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as president and CEO from 2011 to 2015, Finney also led Ann Arbor SPARK and the Greater Rochester (N.Y.) Enterprise, both public-private organizations similar to the Beacon Council. He was also senior advisor for economic growth for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Since 2015, he has led Community Venture Partners, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which has helped communities develop strategies to create pathways out of unemployment for its citizens.
While at Ann Arbor SPARK, Finney focused the agency on the region’s technology capabilities. “There were a lot of good things there but it wasn’t well organized and there was a need to focus on connecting all the dots in the ecosystem that existed and then targeting resources to fill in the gaps,” Finney said.
That resulted in helping to develop an innovation ecosystem that helped grow local companies and attract new businesses, such as Google Ad Words and Barracuda Networks from California and Aernnova Engineering from Spain.
“The tech component of it was what drew me to Ann Arbor and certainly is a significant part of what I see as the opportunity [in Miami],” Finney said. “Ironically, I hear more about companies that are leaving the Miami area and going where they can find the support and resources they need – be that talent or funding or other resources. Figuring out how to grow those companies in Miami-Dade County is the challenge.”
Finney said his first priority will be to get integrated into the community and listen and learn as much as he can about the region. He will be the Beacon Council’s fifth president. Since 1985, the council said it has helped more than 980 businesses, through assistance with expansion, relocation, site selection and incentive packages.
Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg