President and CEO, Ann Arbor Spark and the Washtenaw Development Council. Finney recently returned to Michigan, after a stint as the chief economic developer in Rochester, N.Y., to lead Spark, a new effort to boost employment in Washtenaw County through tech-based economic development. Spark will offer business acceleration, early stage funding, talent enhancement, business outreach, and marketing and events. Prior to his work in Rochester, Finney was a vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.


MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON: “No doubt, it would be my dad. He was not an educated guy. He came to Michigan from Alabama back in the ‘50s and he really understood that for his children to do better than he did, we would have to approach life totally differently. I was the middle child of seven children, and I was the one who really bought completely into his approach about the importance of education, the importance of hard work, the importance of being honest, and the importance of serving others. As a result, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see me graduate. He died a very young guy, at 50. But seldom does a day go by in my life that something doesn’t make me think of him, and it’s been 30 years.”

LAST BOOK READ:The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. I actually read it after reading Blink. It brought a lot of things home about the importance of networks and how small things can have a big impact.”

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Somewhat introverted. Aggressive about business. Focused on accomplishment. Conservative.”

WHERE MY FIELD/INDUSTRY IS HEADED: “I think the Ann Arbor Spark – Washtenaw Development Council model is where economic development is headed. It’s one of the reasons I was interested in coming back to Michigan. The private sector now leads economic development. Businesses are becoming long term stakeholders in the success of regions. They are funding economic development initiatives in very aggressive ways, as is the case at Spark.”

FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL GADGET: “It’s a Bluetooth earpiece for my cell phone. In New York, the fine for getting pulled over for driving while talking on a cell phone is $140 or $150.”

FAVORITE PLACE: “I’ll be politically correct and start with Michigan and say Ann Arbor. But in terms of places I’ve had the chance to visit; I absolutely love New York City. It’s not a place I’d ever choose to live, but the experience is very unique.”

FAVORITE HOBBY: “Golf, every chance I have.”

FAVORITE FOOD: “I love desserts. My mom’s sweet potato pie is probably at the top of the list.”

MY HIDDEN TALENT: “Carpentry. I love woodworking.”

HOW I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: “I hope that I will have the kind of lasting impact on my children that both my parents had on me, in teaching them about how to live, how to work and how to play, lessons that still matter 30, 40, 50 years later, as has been the case with the lessons I learned from my parents.”