Dick DeVos was an up-and-comer in his family’s business at Amway Corp. He was on the right track to becoming the CEO and getting there fast. However, things took a quick change for a while back in 1991. Mr. DeVos had learned of plans for a new sports arena to be built in the downtown area of Grand Rapids. He was not a fan of the idea and quickly went to work rallying against it. He thought that its addition to the area could be detrimental to the city.
Formation Of Grand Action
Dick was not the only person in the area who was against this idea. He started a group called Grand Action which added other business leaders from the area. They were all the main influencers behind some other big construction projects in the city like the convention center, the medical school and the city market.
Heirs To Fortunes
Both Dick and his wife are heirs to the fortunes from their families. However, they still chose to spend much of their adult lives trying to make changes they feel are important in their hometown. They are also mega-donors for the GOP. Their political influences have started many changes in state laws for labor and education. Education reform has been a huge passion for the couple. They even founded a charter high school for aviation at the nearby Grand Rapids Airport. The couple says their philanthropy and education advocacy have been on similar tracks with the education reform. They are seeking an outcome which would help poor families offer their kids the same education opportunities as the ones with money.
How Dick Put The Airport On The Map
Mr. DeVos is a self-described pilot and aviation geek. While he may have not spent much time flying any commercial aircraft, he was still asked to take the lead with the move of Southwest to the Grand Rapids area. He had accepted the offer to take the lead on the move with one condition put into place. He wanted to do it his own way. For him, this meant doing it with a more business-like approach rather than a political one. He also wanted to carry out the plan without letting the public know of it until it was the right time to share.
Dick’s approach to making this plan happen was impressive to the executives at Southwest. In fact, they liked it so much that they made it a model for other communities to follow when they are interested in working with an airline. It was clear after this that DeVos was exactly the right choice for the job. The CEO of AirTran Airways made the original call with the offer and that one phone call is what changed the face of air travel in Grand Rapids.
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