There was a plan in the works for Grand Rapids to become a multi-billion dollar sports center. It concluded with a multi-purpose sports complex and convention center that would sit in the center of downtown. Many business leaders were behind the move, but Dick DeVos was not among them.
The sports complex looked like another Pontiac Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills, the two buildings under construction when the Lions and Pistons left Detroit in the 1970s. At the time, it had been devastating to the city, and DeVos did not want to see that happen in his hometown.
However, he brought together business leaders to form Grand Action, a group of businesses that helped construct the Van Andel Arena, DeVos Perfomance Hall, DeVos Place Convention Center, and the Rapid Rapids City Market. They even had helped with the Michigan State University’s Medical School.
Dick DeVos said at the time that he had learned a lesson from the Pontiac Silverdome, and he did not want to see Grand Rapids follow suit by building something that could not be supported. Instead, he had sights a little higher.
DeVos is an avid aviation expert and pilot who through his ties to his family’s business Amway, has been able to reach some of the top ears of the aviation industry. That includes the CEO of AirTran. In 2012, he talked to the CEO about bringing more flights and expanding services at the Grand Rapids Airport. The idea was a long shot, but the CEO agreed. Soon, Grand Rapids Airport added flights to Detroit, St. Louis, and Orlando.
When AirTran was purchased by Southwest, DeVos unveiled a plan to create an even bigger aviation model for Grand Rapids. This led to the construction of upgrades to the Grand Rapids Aiport, as well as $48 million into the Grand Rapids economy.
Dick DeVos is no stranger to helping out his hometown communities, but he has also been instrumental with his wife and their foundation. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation has given over $187 million to the arts, culture centers, community organizations, family health services, and education. It is clear to see how they have become a powerhouse political couple.
In 2018, Dick DeVos will join his wife in Washington as he has recently been appointed to the Federal Aviation Administration, where he will serve on the management council. His appointment could not come at a better time for the aviation industry, as Southwest CEO has said. Learn more: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2017/10/the_billionaire_that_put_grand.html