Miami – Former Miami Dade Beacon Council President and CEO Michael Finney was the leading economic development professional in the nation, strengthening the county’s economy and growth, and championed Miami as the diverse global innovation hub.
Finney, a native of Michigan, died on April 3 from an apparent heart attack at the age of 65.
His efforts created opportunities that were inclusive, equitable and accessible to the most disadvantaged in the community and consistently collaborated with key stakeholders including local governments, CareerSource South Florida, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Miami-Dade Coalition of Chambers.
“Michael Finney was an eternal optimist. He spent his career helping communities grow, strengthening their economies, and creating pathways to prosperity for residents believing at his core that everyone deserved the chance to succeed,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
“Life is precious, and I am grateful for having had the good fortune to work closely with him as Mayor. I will especially cherish the memory of our week together in Israel, and the legacy of unwavering dedication he leaves behind.”
Cava was among government officials, organizations representatives, family and friends to pay tribute to Finney during a memorial service on April 25 at Miami Dade College’s downtown Wolfson campus.
In his five-year tenure as president and CEO of the Beacon Council, Finney led the organization to break multiple records, most recently in 2021 with 32 companies committing to almost 14,000 new direct and indirect jobs, which translates into almost $1 billion in annual economic impact for Miami-Dade residents and businesses.
In addition to our core work of attracting and retaining companies and investment, Finney led the organization to develop new, locally focused initiatives that support our most underserved communities and small businesses including Miami Community Ventures and Small Business Xcelerator, as well as the reimagining of One Community One Goal resulting in the launch of Opportunity Miami.
Recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Miami Branch, Finney also served on other boards including Baptist Health South Florida, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. A thoughtful mentor and genuinely good person, we know that we are a better community, a better organization, and better people because of Mike.
“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by Mike Finney’s sudden passing. Mike was an inspiring, brilliant, and humble leader whose commitment to this community was unmatched,” said George Bermudez, 2021-2022 Chair for The Beacon Council, and Senior Vice President, Miami Business Banking Market Executive for Bank of America. “The entire Beacon Council family – our board of directors, investors, and team – appreciates how lucky we were to have Mike at the helm and are devastated by his loss. He was devoted to his family, and our hearts go out to his wife Gina, his sons, grandchildren, and extended family.”
Prior to joining the Beacon Council, Finney served Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as senior advisor for economic growth, and President & CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Under his leadership the MEDC moved to the forefront of U.S. economic development organizations, with innovative new initiatives including Pure Michigan Business Connect, Community Ventures, and the revitalized “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign.
Leading the Beacon Council, Finney helped people in low-income areas with a high unemployment rate get jobs through an initiative called Miami Community Venture, which was modeled after a program in Michigan.
He was appointed leader of a tricounty proposal in response to an expansion bid from Amazon, which promised to attract 50,000 jobs to South Florida. The bid was attractive enough to land the region on Amazon’s shortlist of 20 finalist candidates, though it ultimately fell short.
During his memorial service, U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, who was the mayor of Miami-Dade during the beginning of Finney’s stint with the Beacon Council, said he knew Finney was the right man for the job.
He said he was in doubt someone from out of the state could lead the organization, but he was wrong.
“I got to tell you, from the first minute that I met Mike I knew he was the right guy,” he said. “His legacy will continue to grow as Miami becomes what … is its destiny," he said.
CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Eric Knowles encouraged the community to continue Finney’s vision of improving the lives of people who are less fortunate.
“It is up to each and every one of you in here to hold one another accountable, that our community becomes the community that Mike envisioned,” he said.
Finney’s children said their dad was their role model who led by example.
“We are always going to know what to do because our dad, he told us, we watched him do it for so long,” he Michael Finney Jr., who also credits his mom, Gina, for his father’s success.
Yolanda Cash Jackson, a partner with the law firm Becker Poliakoff, is Beacon Council’s Chair-Elect. She praised Finney as a visionary who elevated Miami-Dade business and diverse leaders within and outside the Council.
Robert Beatty, owner of the South Florida Times and the Beacon Council’s first Black Chairman, Board of Trustees, said: "The legacy of Michael Finney lives in the hearts and minds of everyone he touched and through the phenomenal results he achieved. We were Blessed by his greatness."