For years, Dick DeVos watched as Michigan was torn apart about economic strife. Many of the cities, including Detroit, have been unable to recover, even with a number of new objectives to clean up the city and rebuild. In DeVos’ hometown, he saw the same thing happening and wanted to help the business leaders maintain their businesses in downtown.
He started to work with a group of business leaders known as Grand Action. Together, this group would be responsible for the building of a sports arena, convention center, and performance hall. DeVos would contribute the performance hall and convention, but he was guiding many other projects at the time as well. In the 1990s, he wanted to affect bigger change in the city and rapidly grow the metropolis in West Michigan. This meant also looking towards the airport nearby.
While Grand Rapids had always had an airport since the early 1900s, there had been very little updates to the airport since that time. He wanted to work with the airlines and CEO at the airport to see if they could bring in more traffic. The first step was adding new destinations.
DeVos organized with the CEO of AirTran Airways, and after one call, he arranged to have new flights added to the airport location. This would include four locations that were popular business and international locations, such as Orlando and Vegas. These were also locations for some of the biggest conventions and business conferences. DeVos wanted to capture the business traveler audience.
Now that DeVos has been working with the FAA, he has been trying to help the airport expand. After just two decades, the airport has completely transformed into an international airport with a business center, large food court, and technological upgrades. The airport has even one awards and continues to be the number one airport for business travelers in Michigan.
DeVos has a lot of influence in West Michigan. As a member of the Republican Party, he has also supported his wife, who is the newly elected 11th US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It has been difficult for DeVos to grow politically, as he was not successful in his run for governor in 2006. However, he continues to work with the FAA and help the agency with plans to renovate many airports across the country.
President Trump made a challenge to airports “to do better” than foreign airports, which seem to have more technology and convenience than America’s older airports. DeVos will continue to work with the Grand Rapids Airport and contribute to the discussions with the FAA as part of the Management Advisory Council. He joined in September 2017 and continues to meet with the council every quarter.
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