Dick DeVos may not get the press conference that his wife, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, receives, but he has been just as highly involved in Grand Rapids and Michigan politics over the past 30 years.
DeVos first got involved in local politics when he didn’t like the way city leaders were shaping his beloved city of Grand Rapids. City leaders were proposing to build a convention and sports center outside of the city and DeVos feared the move would leave downtown desolate just as a similar move left Detroit’s inner city streets empty.
The businessman, who was on track to become the CEO of his father’s Amway Corp., empire, decided to make some calls. Soon, a coalition of business leaders formed the lobbying group Grand Action. The group pushed for more growth downtown. The result was several large and successful projects resulting in the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Performance Hall, the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Grand Rapids City Market and the medical school at Michigan State University.
The next project for DeVos was bringing growth to the Grand Rapids airport. The goal was to get nonstop flights to include the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. DeVos used some connections to contact Air Tran Airways CEO. A visit to the Michigan airport led the CEO to run some nonstop flights from Grand Rapids.
DeVos, a pilot himself, set his sights on bringing Southwest to the airport. He was given an opportunity when Southwest bought Air Tran. However, the hurdle was in convincing the air carrier to increase direct flights rather than end them.
Southwest added non-stop flights to St. Louis, Baltimore, Denver and Orlando in 2013.
DeVos’ love of aviation carried over to his wife’s passion for charter schools when the couple opened the nonprofit charter school West Michigan Aviation Academy in 2010. The school, located at the airport, has more than 600 students from seven surrounding counties attend.
The businessman’s aviation knowledge and experience landed him a post with the Trump administration in 2017. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao appointed him to the 13-member Management Advisory Council. The council offers direction to the FAA on issues like spending, long-range planning, and policy.
The position is a voluntary position.
Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/about to learn more.