Friends and family members of Michael A. Finney, former CEO of Miami-Dade Beacon Council, gathered Monday to pay him tribute at Miami Dade College’s downtown campus.
Finney, 65, died of a heart attack on April 3 in Miami.
He was an important behind-the-scenes player as head of Miami-Dade County’s economic development agency. Since he was recruited in 2017, Finney was credited with re-energizing the council and bolstering efforts to improve economic equity and inclusivity across Miami-Dade, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finney also helped connect workers in low-income, high unemployment neighborhoods with employers paying a living wage. The initiative, Miami Community Ventures, was modeled on a successful program of his native state of Michigan.
He was appointed leader of a tri-county 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.
Days before Finney’s passing, he had flown back to Miami from Israel, where he joined Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and others to promote the county as a global economic hub.
At his memorial service, Levine Cava said Finney was a leader like no other.
“He had a decades-long career advising elected officials, business and civic leaders about economic development and how to strengthen local and state economies to support industries and create job opportunities for all residents,” she said. “He understood people and he recognized competing priorities, and was somehow able to always find common ground.”
Congressman Carlos A. Giménez, who was mayor of Miami-Dade during the beginning of Finney’s tenure, said he was skeptical when he was first told that the Beacon Council would hire someone from out of state to lead the organization.
“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.”
Eric Knowles, CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, said Finney understood that the Miami-Dade community could not be better without all of its residents working together to improve the lives of the less fortunate.
“It is up to each and everyone of you in here to hold one another accountable, that our community becomes the community that Mike envisioned,” he said.
George Bermudez, chair of the council’s board of directors, said he was “joined by the hip” with Finney during the Israel trip, witnessing how he worked work with companies wanting to open offices in the county.
Bermudez, a father of an 18-year-old high school student, said he has always told his son to be a good human being and to always do the right thing, but that he didn’t know who could embody those qualities and be a role model for his son.
“I always wondered how would that person look like or be like,” he said. “And now I can tell my son, ‘be like Mike.”
To watch Finney’s memorial service, go to mdc.edu/livestream.