You can’t swing a bat in Grand Rapids, Mich., without hitting something named DeVos.
There’s good reason. Dick DeVos, who calls Grand Rapids his hometown, has been an influencer and creator in both the city and in western Michigan. Married to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the son of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, Dick DeVos has been transforming Grand Rapids for decades.
His foray into civic change took a major step in 1991 when Grand Rapids government leaders discussed an idea of building a major sports and convention area north of the city. DeVos didn’t like the idea. He said he saw a significant negative impact on Detroit when the Pontiac Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills were built, causing the Lions and Pistons to leave downtown.
DeVos wanted more people to come to downtown Grand Rapids. He gathered business leaders together to form Grand Action, which promoted, lobbied for and ultimately pushed for the construction of several new structures downtown including the DeVos Performance Hall, the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Van Andel Arena, the Grand Rapids City Market and the medical school at Michigan State University.
The improvements have kept Grand Rapids an active, thriving city.
DeVos, along with his wife, expanded healthcare for children in the area by donating $12.5 million to build a children’s hospital in 2006. The hospital, in the Spectrum Health System, allows families to stay at home rather than take their children to Chicago, the Mayo Clinic, or some other larger hospital.
The couple also founded a the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a charter school, out of the Grand Rapids airport. Dick DeVos is a pilot and has always had an interest in the field and Betsy DeVos is a charter school advocate, which made for a successful charter school launch. The school has more than 600 students across seven counties.
Dick DeVos also worked to improve revenue and traffic coming to the airport. He lured AirTran’s chief executive to the airport for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport to convince him to offer non-stop flights. Devos’ persuasion worked. When Southwest bought AirTran, the businessman then worked to convince the company to keep its current non-stop flights. He didn’t stop there. DeVos told Southwest executives they should expand direct flights in and out of Grand Rapids.
Southwest added direct flights to Baltimore, Denver, Orlando and St. Louis in 2013.
DeVos will now have more influence over the nation’s aviation. He was tapped by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao last September to be on the Management Advisory Council. The 13-member council is a volunteer group that advises Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials on topics like spending, long-range planning, regulation and policy.
To learn more, visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/.