In the early 1990s, Dick DeVos was looking at plans for a multi-purpose sports and convention area that would be located north of downtown in Grand Rapids. The DeVos family has been influential in their hometown of Grand Rapids but also in the state of Michigan. DeVos found issues with funding and economic development with the building plans and wanted to take Grand Rapids in a different direction.
He saw opportunity to build Grand Rapids in other ways and avoid disasters that had previously happened in Detroit from building large sports multiplexes. DeVos was worried that a new convention center would also create issues financially for Grand Rapids. As the CEO of Amway, DeVos said that he had learned a great lesson from the failure of the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit.
The formation of Grand Action came from DeVos working together with business leaders to better economic opportunities. The group became the driving force behind the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Place Convention Center, Grand Rapids City Market, the DeVis Performance Hall, and the medical school of the Michigan State University.
The position of the new sports complex was the major issue. Downtown was a central business district that the group wanted to build up. In addition, DeVos saw ways to bring commerce through the Gerald R. Ford international airport. The airport had been stagnant in development for many years. As the CEO of Amway, access was given to many business leaders, including the CEO of Air Tran Airways.
Air Tran eventually added several new terminals to the Grand Rapids airport just from that one conversation with Dick DeVos. In addition, as Southwest took over Air Tran in early 2000, DeVos worked with the new CEO to keep the terminals and work on a place to expand the airport as well.
All of this puts DeVos’ experience into perspective as he takes on a new position in a civilian panel appointed to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Business Advisory council. This new council meets once a quarter and provides oversight on new regulations, policy changes, budgets, long-term planning, and other issues facing the aviation industry.
The CEO of Southwest said that DeVos’ appointment is a great choice for aviation, and that he was excited to see what DeVos would bring to the table with his appointment. DeVos joins 12 other members to create policies that will affect the aviation industry and hopefully accomplish some of the same successes that DeVos experienced in Grand Rapids.
Additionally, DeVos has co-founded a number of charities with his wife Betsy. In fact, the two started an aviation academy that was located on the Gerald R. Ford airport. The campus welcomes students who want to become engineers and pilots working in the aviation industry. Learn more: https://www.crunchbase.com/person/dick-devos