Dick Devos: A Philanthropist

There are many people who see the DeVos family name and wonder how did they become so powerful. For the most part, the company Amway has helped build the DeVos Family Foundation into what it is today. The foundation’s board includes Dick and Betsy DeVos, who run the charity as well as many other businesses in Michigan. The DeVos family has been accredited with helping West Michigan businesses and education systems since the 1980s. However, it has been in the last two decades that the city has finally begun to grow, becoming a metropolis in its own right.


Many accredit DeVos with the growth of Grand Rapids. He was just coming off a period at Amway as the Vice President of Global Sales in the 1980s when he wanted to do something for his hometown. He wanted to make sure that his hometown would grow rapidly and become a place of industry. Already, there were complaints in downtown of what was happening in Detroit. Businesses were abandoning the major centers of commerce.


DeVos saw many plans floated on how to revamp the city. Most often they included arenas and sports centers that weren’t near the center of downtown. DeVos didn’t want to encourage that. He had seen what had happened in Detroit with the Pontiac Silverdome. He knew that if you built areas away from business centers, it wouldn’t lead to more growth. Instead, he partnered up with multiple business leaders to encourage new growth in downtown by building performance halls and convention centers.


There was even a new arena called the Andel Arena. These areas would build up the city immensely, but that wasn’t all that DeVos had in mind. He turned to the city’s airport for the last major change, and it would prove to be the most important of all. In fact, DeVos is credited with putting the airport on the map, and it’s also one of the reasons that he now works with the FAA.


In the 1990s, the airport hadn’t done very well. With poor ticket sales and few destinations, it was difficult to book flights out of Grand Rapids. However, DeVos made one phone call to the CEO of AirTran Airways in the early 2000s. He convinced the CEO to open up new terminals and started working with other CEOs to encourage new flights. This instantly picked up ticket sales for the airport, resulting in a $45 million funded remodel that would bring new technology and a business center to the old airport.


It’s these kinds of ideas that the FAA has been looking for, and it’s why DeVos sits on their Management Advisory Council. This is a civilian board made up of transportation authorities and airline executives. However, DeVos is the only one not directly related to the aviation industry through any other way than his work with the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. As he was able to get so much funding for the airport upgrades, he now provides council to the FAA on upcoming budgets for their makeovers. It was recently announced that the GSO Tower would be receiving a $40 million makeover in 2019.


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