Dick DeVos: Businessman and Philanthropist

The DeVos family has always been involved in the development of Grand Rapids, but it wasn’t until Dick DeVos stepped in the 1990s that the metropolis now known today was born. In the 1980s, DeVos was working under Amway as the Vice President. Under his leadership, he created record-breaking sales through the late 1980s and 1990s. When he finally decided to take a break, he wanted to focus on building up the businesses in his hometown and helping the downtown area become a bustling hive of activity.


At the time, it was hardly anything like that. The town had experienced a slowdown in activity, and businesses were leaving the popular central downtown district. There were plans floated for new centers and activity areas, like a sports arena. However, DeVos did not like the arena’s location, which was away from downtown center. This reminded him of issues that Detroit had with the Pontiac SilverDome, and he didn’t want to see a report of what happened there in his hometown.


He worked with business leaders to come up with a plan. They called it Grand Action. It was a committee that brought all the business leaders together to make plans on the future of Grand Rapids, and it included building such places like the Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, and DeVos Performance Hall. However, the convention center would prove to be a much larger piece as DeVos moved forward with another phase of the plan.


Currently DeVos has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council. The council is comprised of 13 members from backgrounds like transportation authority and policy, airline executives, and business executives. DeVos is one of the only members that doesn’t have any traditional work in aviation policy or transportation regulations. However, that’s not what has made him so successful in aviation business.


His ability to help the Gerald R. Ford International Airport is what has made him so successful. The airport was struggling in the 1990s as well, but it just surpassed 3.26 million passengers in one year. Most of this is due to something that DeVos did in the very beginning of the 2000s era in aviation. He started bringing airline CEOs and airport CEOs to the table to discuss more profitable ways to bring in passengers.


His plan was to bring in more business travelers to the Grand Rapids location. He started to work with AirTran airways first, adding on new destinations and bringing in new interest that catered to business conference destinations. It wasn’t long until the airport had grown into a multimillion dollar aviation hot spot.


DeVos continues to bring these business ideas and expertise to the table during the Management Advisory meetings.


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