When Dick DeVos started working with business leaders in Grand Rapids, many wondered why he stepped away from Amway, but it was because he wanted his hometown to be successful. In the 1990s, Michigan went through an economic upheaval that changed almost every major city. DeVos knew that Grand Rapids had a chance to create a better Grand Rapids.
So he worked with businesses and created a new downtown, constructing several buildings with a committee called Grand Action. They were responsible for the Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, medical center, and the DeVos Performance Hall. These places forever changed the way that Grand Rapids looked, and they helped rapidly grow the city.
DeVos also saw that he could bring new people to Grand Rapids just by helping out the nearby airport as well. He wanted to rebuild the small airport so that it became a world renowned location for aviation, and he started by co-founding a charter school with his wife, the 11th US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Together, they built a pilot academy on the grounds of the airport, wanting to train students who were interested in becoming pilots and flight operators.
Now DeVos has changed the airport into a bustling multimillionaire dollar airport that sees over 3.26 million passengers per year. Before, the airport was barely selling tickets. Then, DeVos made one phone call in the early 2000s. He started by calling the CEO of AirTran Airways. He wanted to talk to the CEO about opening up new terminals at the Grand Rapids airport. He thought that if they could lure in travelers from other conference destination airports, such as Orlando and Las Vegas, he could turn Grand Rapids into a conference destination as well.
The plan slowly began to take hold, and pretty soon, the airport needed to expand because business was so good. They even constructed a business lounge area. DeVos was apart of a whole new transformation for the airport called the Gateway Transformation Project. Started in 2017, the project would expand the airport’s technology and make it even more customer-oriented, so that even at the curb, they were able to use their smartphones to check-in and get through security faster.
These advancements have helped Grand Rapids grow into a metropolis, and it has sparked businesses to return to the center of the city, creating new commerce and business for local shops and communities. DeVos has always helped Grand Rapids and has always had his own headquarters located in his hometown.
Recently, DeVos was asked to join the Management Advisory Council of the Federal Aviation Administration. A long-time fan of aviation and a pilot himself, DeVos quickly jumped on the opportunity to work with others in aviation and hopefully lead the way for better airports.
Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/about to learn more.