Dick DeVos is a billionaire entrepreneur who operates at one speed, and that one speed is very fast. When events take place in his home town that seem detrimental for its growth and happiness, he has always taken action. One such event occurred many years ago, in 1991, when the city was considering building a multi-purpose sports arena and convention center north of the downtown region of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The plan had been released to the public, and DeVos made the decision to pick up the telephone and begin a lobbying effort against the idea.
At the time, Dick DeVos was on his way to becoming the chief executive officer of Amway, and he was concerned that the arena and convention center would harm the downtown area of Grand Rapids. The same thing had happened many years ago in Detroit when the Pontiac Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills was built. The arena seemed like a good idea then, too, but that was before the city’s sports teams, the Lions and the Pistons, left the city. DeVos was not about to let that happen to Grand Rapids.
During his campaigning against the sports arena, Dick DeVos got together with many different business leaders. He eventually helped to put together the group known as Grand Action. This group has continued to be a good thing for the city as it has been a part of the construction of a spread of buildings in the city. These buildings include Van Andel Arena, the medical school at Michigan State University, and the DeVos Place Convention Center. The city has Grand Action and DeVos to thank for improving its offerings, but this is not all he has done.
Dick DeVos was also responsible for putting Grand Rapids on the map as he convinced AirTran to offer flights at its Gerald R. Ford International Airport. He did so just months before the company was acquired by Southwest. After the acquisition, Southwest was considering slowing down its flights in Grand Rapids or pulling out, altogether. That was before DeVos called the company up and convinced them to stay and to also increase the number of flights running out of the city’s airport. Southwest now offers nonstop flights out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
Dick DeVos has also been a large part of efforts to overhaul the educational system in the state of Michigan. He has been working with his wife, Betsy DeVos, to expand charter schools in the state. Over the last three decades, the couple’s charitable organization, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has donated more than $138 million to many different causes. The bulk of the foundation’s giving has been directed towards educational reform and especially policy initiatives that promote this. DeVos also started up The West Michigan Aviation Academy, which now has 600 students in attendance. He created the school because of his love of the aviation industry, and he hopes that it will help to inspire younger students who aspire to become pilots.
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