Column: Mike Finney ready to present recommendations for Michigan's economic future to Rick Snyder on Friday
The most obvious move in Michigan business circles happened on Monday, when Gov.-elect Rick Snyder named Michael Finney as the next CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
The move was a natural for Finney, who for 5 years led Ann Arbor SPARK from a startup to a statewide job-creation force amid the worst economic downturn in generations.
Finney’s strengths are his strategic vision and his ability to forge collaboration in a competitive arena, his colleagues at SPARK say.
But another Finney trait already is evident in Lansing: Getting the job done.
Finney, appointed by Snyder to his transition team, already has spent 6 weeks digging into the MEDC, the communities in Michigan where its work is either most evident - or needs to be - and forming his own action plan for what needs to be done to revive this state’s business climate. The timing is crucial: In less than a year, the state will be preparing a 2012 budget estimated to have a $1.6 billion shortfall.
Monday’s move made official what many in Michigan expected from Snyder. The MEDC board will make finalize the step in January, after it convenes under the new administration.
Yet Finney came out of Monday’s meeting to announce his new position with one pressing goal: Presenting his list of 20-30 recommendations that the MEDC needs to accomplish.
“I’ve talked to hundreds of people from every corner of the state,” Finney said late Monday afternoon, as he was leaving Lansing.
That includes MEDC staff, whom he calls some of the highly educated, knowlegable people he’s met.
The result is an impression of what MEDC does well and what it doesn’t, and what he’ll need to do to change the balance when he takes over his new role.
Because he’s presenting it to Snyder and the rest of the transition team on Friday, he wouldn’t go into detail on Monday.
But he spoke of being ready to present it - and then to act.
And at the top of his list was increasing the transparency and communication in the office.
“I need to be sure that economic developers around the state are participating in the process so they have ownership (of the results),” he said. “That hasn’t always been the case.”
And he says he needs to “build a can-do culture in the organization.”
“The good things we’ve done, we’re going to build on,” Finney said. “The not so good, we’re going to replace.”
In addition, those smart people in the MEDC office will receive clear vision from Finney and Snyder for what needs to be accomplished. And then they’ll be turned loose to deliver it.
Snyder speaks frequently of the need to remake Michigan’s culture so that we believe we can win at economic development after years of suffering the worst of the downturn.
That focus on letting smart people create their way to delivering the vision of leadership is one that’s worked for both Snyder as an entrepreneur and Finney as an economic developer who broadened his role at Ann Arbor SPARK to see the possibilities for all of Michigan.
At the same time, he spoke Monday of focusing on the needs of his customers, too. And that means the businesses of Michigan, the ones that already exist here and have a stake in improving the state’s economies via their individual success.
He also spoke of talent, one of the key words heard from him over recent years at SPARK, as he elevated the role that people - the right people with the right educations for tomorrow’s economy - will play in our rebirth.
What he didn’t talk about - and what he hasn’t, as the job was offered to him - is the pay or benefits he’ll receive in the new role. While he’s earned $259,000 per year at SPARK, the MEDC job paid $200,000 last year, and Snyder is talking about cutting public payroll.
It’s the vision for what he’ll create at the MEDC driving his attention right now, Finney said, not the personal benefits. Those will be resolved eventually, he said. “I’m not concerned about it.”
He’s aiming for Friday, when his direction will be endorsed by Snyder and his team.
And he’s using his experience in Ann Arbor as a foundation for what he’ll build for Michigan moving forward.
“I’m excited,” he said Monday. “I’m appreciative of all of the positive experiences I had in Ann Arbor.
“I think the Ann Arbor region has served as a tremendous pilot of what we can do and accomplish at the state level.”