When Dick DeVos was the CEO of his family’s Amway Corp company, a plan was proposed for the construction of the Grand Rapids multi-purpose sports and convention arena in the north of downtown. When Dick got wind of this, he decided to make calls to lobby against the proposed construction of the complex.
Dick feared that the area would be a repeat of what had happened in Detroit, after the construction of the Palace of Auburn and the Pontiac Silverdome that happened in the 1970s when the Pistons and Lions left the city.
Dick DeVos campaigned against the construction of the facility outside of the central business district to the point that he formed a Grand Action group. The Grand Action Group constituted of business leaders who spearheaded the construction of a couple of facilities which include the Michigan State University Medical School, the Grand Rapids City Market, the DeVos Performance Hall, the DeVos Place Convention Center, and the Van Andel Arena.
The efforts that Dick DeVos placed on this issue is not strange because Dick together with his wife have spent most of their lives trying to change policies and institutions. For instance, Dick was concerned about changing the fortunes of the Grand Rapid’s airport and he decided to have a meeting with the CEO with the idea of running nonstop flights outside the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Later on, nonstop flights to Baltimore and Orlando were conducted and even extended to Michigan. After seeing profits coming in, there were direct flights to St. Louis, Denver Orlando, and Baltimore. Shortly after the increase in direct flights, Grand Rapids airport decided to implement upgrades that cost $45 million which involved the streamlining of the security check-in, construction of restaurants, business centers, and new restrooms.
Dick DeVos had a great vision for Ford’s airport, and his support for the aviation industry was evident when he was recognized and named as a member of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council.) His role would be to advise the senior management on spending, policy, regulatory issues and long-term planning.
Although Dick had his successes, Betsy DeVos also had her own impact on various fronts, and together, they created great impact on different levels. For instance, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation gave away $138.7 million to scholarships for private schools, education reform policies, churches, health and human services, arts and culture, and leadership programs.
The couple also donated $12.5 million in Grand Rapids to the construction of the $103 million Spectrum Health System at the children’s hospital. This system allowed families to be at ease because children could receive care from home instead of rushing through traffic to get to the hospital.
Apart from helping the growth of the Grand Rapid’s airport, Dick also founded an aviation charter high school. This was a good initiative because education reform has been a big initiative for the DeVos family.
Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/about to learn more.