Blog: Mike Finney

Mike Finney is president and chief executive officer of Ann Arbor SPARK.  Prior to joining SPARK in November of 2005, he was president and chief executive officer of Greater Rochester Enterprise, the public/private economic development arm of the greater Rochester, NY area. Before that, Mike managed the MEDC’s $1 billion Michigan Life Sciences Corridor initiative that provided seed and grant money to bolster the state’s life science research and commercialization efforts. He held his vice-president post at the MEDC from 2000 to 2002. Previously, Mike was senior vice president and general manager at Thomson Saginaw Ballscrew Co. in Saginaw for thirteen years and, prior to that, Saginaw assistant city manager for three years.

Mike will be writing about who's making a difference in the Michigan.


Photograph by Marvin Shaouni

Mike Finney - Most Recent Posts:

Post No. 5

 I caught you doing something right 

Several months ago economic development leaders from the City of Detroit and Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw Counties formed the Economic Development Coalition of South East Michigan (EDCSEM). 

…This week the group released a report summarizing business attraction and expansion successes throughout SE Michigan. The results below are positive given the statewide challenges we have experienced including the downsizing in manufacturing and other sectors.    

Totals:   Projects     Retained Jobs        New Jobs        Investment ($) 
                65                4835                3682              $2.27 Billion 

Most important, the group is committed to collaboration on this and other initiatives that drive economic success for SE Michigan. The report also provides direction to job seekers, not-for-profit organizations, and business development managers looking for new opportunities. 

I caught you doing something right.

Here are a few comments received from others who joined in this week – catching others doing something right…

Hi Michael,

Last weekend, over 100 people showed up on a Saturday at Washtenaw Community College for the first ever ArbCamp, a low-cost ($15) one day event that brought together members of the Ann Arbor community to talk about social networking and social media. The event was amazing. It was organized as an Open Spaces event, which means that the participants themselves determined the agenda, onsite, as the first task of the day.8 concurrent sessions were conducted, where the participants worked out issues together and brainstormed ideas. There was an incredible amount of energy and relationships were built that I suspect will be longstanding within our community. At the wrap-up session, people described the event as one of the most useful educational opportunities that they had ever attended, and marveled at how much they had learned. 

In your "caught you doing something right column", I hope that you will choose to recognize the organizers of ArbCamp, for their volunteer efforts in putting together this amazing event, and for the many that they will undoubtedly organize in the future. 

For more information about ArbCamp, click
here. And several blogs, including mine:

I thought you would like to know!


Hi Mike -

Love your "caught you doing something right" blog. May I suggest someone else to consider? The local Usability Professionals Chapter, which was recently named, the "
best chapter in the world." 

They are helping make southeast Michigan a great place for user experience professionals to flourish. They are working with related professional organizations to provide quality educational and networking opportunities. 


PS And I am even from Ohio and I still think they are doing something right!! 

Thanks Dianne and Keith for participating in this BLOG - I caught you doing something right! 

Please join me in contributing to this BLOG by sharing who you "caught doing something right."

Post No. 3

I caught you doing something right 

Economic development is a team sport…collaboration among local organizations is changing the culture and establishing the ecosystem that is needed for innovation based start up companies to grow and prosper in our region. Compendia Biosciences is one example of a start up that is maximizing the use of this newly established ecosystem to grow their business.

Compendia Biosciences was co-founded in 2005 by Dan Rhodes, and Arul Chinnaiyan, MD. Their technology, Bioinformatics-molecular oncology tools, data, and analysis software was developed and licensed by the University of Michigan (U-M). The
U-M Office of Technology Transfer worked closely with the founders to identify resources that were needed to maximize the probability of success. 

The founders attended Ann Arbor
SPARK’s Entrepreneur Boot Camp 2005 and eventually became a client of SPARK’s business accelerator.  Compendia and SPARK negotiated a consulting services agreement valued at $49,000, funded by the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti SmartZone LDFA and the Michigan Technology Tri-Corridor. The services agreement included business plan development, marketing, and talent recruitment. They also received an equity investment of $250,000 from the Michigan Pre-seed Fund.

So does all this assistance really make a difference? There is a lot of good news to report…With support from
Washtenaw County ETCS, Compendia recruited a CEO and Technology Manager. Their first year business development efforts have built a foundation for promising performance. They were awarded over $1.2 million in additional funding from the 21st Century Jobs Fund, raised $600,000 in private equity and recently won a $2.4 million Small Business Innovation Research award.  Compendia has 14 employees, their office is located in downtown Ann Arbor within the SmartZone-LDFA, and they are now repaying the original investment to allow other companies to receive similar assistance. 

On the public relations front, Compendia was one of 15 companies to receive a 2007 "Innovation Company of the Year" award from Ann Arbor Business Review. 

Success stories like this one are highly dependent on a culture and ecosystem that understands the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, and the importance of building a unified team working together to achieve common economic objectives, without duplication of effort. 

- I caught you doing something right! 

Please join me in contributing to this BLOG by sharing who you "caught doing something right."

Post No. 4

I caught you doing something right 

Eastern Leaders Group, building a culture to support entrepreneurs throughout the Ann Arbor Region…

I spent Monday evening meeting with (at least) 20 Eastern Washtenaw County Civic Leaders to develop action plans for redevelopment of the east side. The effort aims to capitalize on the academic resources of Eastern Michigan University (EMU), the City of Ypsilanti’s historic district, and the east side "Gateway" to Washtenaw County.   

For its part, EMU will lead the effort to establish our K-12 school districts as being among the best in the nation. Given EMU’s reputation for graduating many of the best and brightest teachers in the nation, we have an opportunity to lead our state in graduating students who are prepared to pursue college degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). This is precisely the leadership that is needed if we are to maintain the academic and technological advantages we have enjoyed throughout our history.   

EMU, Washtenaw County, and Ann Arbor SPARK are also playing a lead role in establishing a business incubator in downtown Ypsilanti. Entrepreneurs often work from home, coffee shops, or anyplace else that meets their budget and technology needs. In many cases they settle for less than optimum facilities, technology, lease terms, and other business support resources. The vision for "SPARK East" includes reduced rents, robust business services, and networking opportunities that will allow entrepreneurs to build key business relationships. 

Ypsilanti is the Eastern Gateway to Washtenaw County. It’s proximity to the Detroit Metropolitan area; airports, arts and culture, talent and the Canadian border, make it a critical component in the long-term economic vitality of our region. 

And, let’s not forget the role our Eastern Gateway will play in the development of the planned Aerotropolis. The time is now, the leadership is motivated, let’s show our support as our Eastern Leaders endeavor to build a vibrant east side. 

- I caught you doing something right! 

Please join me in contributing to this BLOG by sharing who you "caught doing something right."

Post No. 1

It’s time to catch someone doing something right…

I read (and listen) with great interest to the plethora of things that go wrong in our state/community on a daily basis. I often find myself wondering - what if we only focused on good news - things that are going right? Would it change the way we deal with problems, what we think of each other, or the way we react to challenges? 

I say YES. 

One of the many lessons that I learned from my father was the importance of positive reinforcement – catching you doing something right. God knows that with seven children, my parents had far too many opportunities to catch us doing something wrong. 

Over the next few days I will share thoughts on this theme. Let me start by sharing a couple of my recent - I caught you doing something right’s.

University Presidents, Mary Sue Coleman, Irvin Reid, and Lou Anne Simon

…for establishing the University Research Corridor (URC) and for your commitment to play a greater role in the economic revitalization of our state, I caught you doing something right.

I watched with great interest the reaction from participants in last week’s "Rising Above the Gathering Storm Conference" hosted by the URC. The media coverage included Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Austin, Columbus and most other major markets that we compete with for business attraction. This is precisely the type of favorable media coverage our state needs…and our universities deserve recognition for making it happen. Our research universities enjoy excellent reputations for educating students and discovering innovations that will change the way we work and live. With their continued support of economic development, Michigan’s economic recovery will certainly accelerate.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Jim Epolito

…for your Upper Hand and Pure Michigan marketing campaigns, I caught you doing something right.

We can all agree that our state needs to diversify our economic base. With such a long and successful history as home to automotive/manufacturing, Michigan is not frequently on the radar screen of most "innovation-focused" business decision makers. 

The decision by MEDC to invest heavily in promoting our many innovative companies and tourist attractions is proving to be just what our state needed to compete for companies like Google and Aernnova. While the long-term impact of these marketing programs is yet to be determined, there is plenty of evidence that we are heading in the right direction, and these initiatives deserve our continued support.

Please join me in contributing to this BLOG by sharing who you “caught doing something right.

Post No. 2

It’s time to catch someone doing something right…this is easier than I expected

Fall 2007 Entrepreneurs, Boot Camp Drill Instructors, Mentors, and Volunteers

…for sharing your time, resources and expertise - assisting aspiring entrepreneurs as they take the first step in launching a business; Chuck Salley, Jim Price, Mike Klein, Kurt Riegger, Jim Arthurs, Chris Bickley, David Bloom, Alex Brar, Greg Buck, Merv Carse, Charles Conrad, Randy Dence, Paul DiMarzo, Joe Ferrario, Sam Fine, Jan Gensheimer, Bill Greenway, David Hartmann, David Haviland, Gary Hessenaur, Al Kortesoja, Michael Kurek, Mark Lundquist, David Olson, Jack Edelstein, Dexter Snyder, Ty Myers, Yan Ness, Gerald Roston, Rick Stallings, Karen Studer-Rabeler, Kevin Suboski, Rick Vanzura, Don Walker, Kevin Wittrup, Andy McColm, Wes Huffstutter, Phil Tepley, Kayo Ramirez, Paula Rhoades, Wayne Harvey, Roger Newton, Larry Schmitt, Scott Olson, Skip Simms, Tom Marten, Susanna Thomashefski, Amy Cell, Elizabeth Parkinson, Diane Durance, and Lori Emerson - I caught you doing something right!

Linking entrepreneurs with effective mentoring and coaching is one of the top ten “best practices” identified by our research that drives robust entrepreneurial communities. We also know that finding adequate seed and subsequent growth capital is highly dependent on the preparedness and track record of the entrepreneur. 

The Boot Camp Program compresses the usual learning curve to move a great business idea to the next level with two intensive days (and evenings) of learning. A seasoned entrepreneur/mentor leads each team in the Boot Camp. The mentor is complemented by a host of local volunteer-business experts. 

Participants learn how to develop a solid business planning foundation, design an effective investor presentation, and work one-on-one with experienced business executives. They also have an opportunity to present to a panel of venture capital investors.

Getting involved with your local SmartZone as a coach or mentor will allow entrepreneurs to accelerate their business plans and provide the "seeds" that are needed to position our state for economic growth.  

Michigan Innovation Equipment Depot (MIED)

…for providing (free) high-value equipment and consumables to 52 life science start up companies throughout the entire state; MIED partners including the SmartZone Network, MichBio, Ann Arbor SPARK, Southwest Michigan First, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Pfizer Global Research & Development - I caught you doing something right!

The MIED is an idea that has potential for many industry sectors. As established companies update technology they should consider donating high-value excess equipment to the MIED for distribution to needy start ups throughout the state. 

This is a win-win. 

Companies receive a tax break and start ups save limited working capital to fund research, prototype development, talent, marketing, and business development needs. MIED provides access to previously used laboratory equipment critical to a company's product research, development and manufacturing.

Feedback from the most recent recipients of MIED donations (all edited):

"Thank you and everyone else involved with the recent consumables fest.  Seriously, the opportunity to pick up supplies was fantastic."
"I wanted to say thank you for the great way you and the team carried out the consumable distribution the other day.  Several of my companies went and came back singing your praises." 
"The event was well organized and highly productive for all the companies who received this generous donation. Our company is excited to be putting these consumables to good use. Excellent job!"
Please join me in contributing to this BLOG by sharing who you "caught doing something right."