Most people don’t realize that both Betsy and Dick Devos are now working in Washington. The new US Education Secretary has been sweeping the nation with reforms and educational choice, but it was just in September 2017 when her husband joined her on Capitol Hill. Now Dick Devos will be working with the Federal Aviation Administration in a step that many in the industry praised despite him never being an airline executive or transportation authority.
What makes Devos such a great choice for the council? For one, he has been a pilot for many years, and he has a passion for aviation. He is also legendary for his work and partnership with the CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. It all started back in the 1990s when Devos was working as the CEO and President of Amway. He wanted to work on other projects in his hometown that would affect change and grow the city’s commerce.
He saw plenty of opportunities, but the airport, which had been around since the early 1900s, was a major part of his plan. He wanted people to look at Grand Rapids as a business travel destination and a key airport in between international flights through the United States. He began working with the airport in 1999 at the time of the airport’s re-launch. Ticket growth was still down, so Devos talked to his colleague, the CEO of Air Tran Airways. He convinced the CEO to open up new terminals at the airport, including flights to Orlando, St. Louis, Las Vegas, and Denver. The new flights were such a success that the airport was able to expand a bit more.
However, there were some dark times. When Air Tran Airways was purchased by Southwest, there were fears that the airport would close down terminals because of poor growth. Devos called up the CEO of Southwest and talked to him about the future of the airport and further growth opportunities that were still on the horizon for the airport. IT turns out that he was right. The airport didn’t lose any terminals and continued to grow until it needed a huge expansion, which it received in 2018. The expansion would cost $45 million but would bring about a new business traveler center and food court upgrades.
It’s these savvy business decisions that made Dick Devos a legend in aviation business and what got him appointed to the council. He will now meet with the council every quarter to talk about policies, regulations, budgets, and future growth.
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