Those familiar with Dick Devos, the billionaire political and community activist from Michigan, may know him as the CEO of Amway, which is the company that his father co-founded. He also is known as the husband of the current Secretary of the US Department of Education, Betsy Devos, who’s currently serving in the Trump administration after a long career as a GOP Party chairwoman and GOP mega-donor.
Dick Devos has a long history of involvement in community projects as well as in conservative causes. Back in 1991, Devos (who was then on his way to becoming the Amway CEO) became involved when a plan was announced to create a massive sports and convention arena north of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Devos became concerned that the creation of the arena would have a negative impact on the city, just as it did in Detroit, when two major arenas were built there in the 1970s. Those arenas marred downtown Detroit when the two teams, the Lions and the Pistons, moved out of Detroit, and Devos didn’t want to see Grand Rapids suffer the same fate.
Using His Influence
As he worked towards stopping the plan, Dick Devos got involved in forming a group of business leaders in Grand Rapids, and called the group “Grand Action.” This group got involved in developing other structures in downtown Grand Rapids that did a lot to alter the city skyline. Those structures include the Van Andel Arena as well as the Devos Place Convention Center.
Following the success of his work with Grand Action, Dick Devos and his wife Betsy continued on in their work as GOP mega-donors involved in political and social causes. They found they had influence in some areas, including vouchers for private schools, luring a major airline to the Michigan Airport, and in transforming Michigan into a right-to-work state that now has a lesser union influence.
Some Successes, Some Failures
Not every political action taken by Dick Devos has succeeded, however. Back in 2000, Dick and Betsy Devos put their influence behind an amendment to the state constitution that pushed for tax funding for school vouchers for private schools. The measure was voted down, and Dick Devos also failed in his bid to become the Governor of Michigan.
Still, Dick and Betsey continue to have political influence, as Betsy Devos has shown in her current position in the Trump administration.
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