In 1991, Dick DeVos stepped in on what he thought was a disastrous plan for Grand Rapids. He saw that construction was being taken away from Downtown Grand Rapids and placed north of the city’s center. DeVos had seen how these kind of moves played out in the past for Detroit.
For example, the construction of Pontiac Silverdome crushed Detroit financially, particularly when the Detroit Pistons and Lions left the city in the 1970s. These were things that Dick DeVos saw as problems for the growing city and he wanted to place business leaders in control of the downtown area. He wanted to affect ecommerce and change directions for the city. His decisions led to the creation of a group called Grand Action. This group was responsible for building some of the best organizations and centers in the city, including the Van Andel Arena and the DeVos Place Convention Center.
DeVos always had a knack for finding business opportunities. He served as the CEO of Amway for 12 years doing just that. In that time, he managed to grow Grand Rapids in many ways beyond new construction. He saw opportunities in aviation. As an avid pilot, he co-founded an aviation school called the Westchester Aviation Academy. The campus resides on Gerald R. Ford Airport, which is close to DeVos’ heart.
For many years, he has been working with the Gerald R. Ford Airport to expand and create new opportunities for airlines. He worked with Air Tran Airways in the early 2000s to bring more terminals to Gerald R. Ford airport and then again when Southwest took over Air Tran a few years ago. This led to some chaos for certain airports as Southwest began shutting down terminals in various locations. DeVos worked with the CEO of Southwest to ensure that all terminals would be kept open at the Grand Rapids airport.
This was essential for Dick DeVos as he grew his business connections in the aviation world. He had long been flying single-engine jets and helicopters, but now he was working with real business leaders and trying to create opportunities for his hometown as well.
His knowledge of the industry and business connections gave him a leg up in Washington as he was appointed to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council. This civilian panel contains 13 members so far and presides over policy changes, regulations, budgets, and long-term planning. It is one of the main reasons that Dick DeVos has been praised by the CEO of Southwest, who has said that his savvy business skills and knowledge of the industry will help make great things possible in the next year.
The council will meet every quarter to discuss different topics and preside over issues facing the aviation industry. Dick DeVos now joins his wife in the political arena as she sweeps the nation with education reform as the U.S. Education Secretary. Learn more: http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/