Ask anyone in Grand Rapids the question, “Who is Dick DeVos?” and you are liable to get a litany of answers. However, one thing is for certain: you will get an answer one way or another, simply because everyone in the Grand Rapids area knows who Dick and Betsy DeVos are. It all started in 1991 when Dick DeVos was on the fast track to becoming CEO of Amway, which was the company co-founded by his father. There was a plan floated to build a sports convention in a Grand Rapids suburb, and Dick was adamantly against the idea, partly because he saw what had happened to Detroit when they built their sports conventions in the suburbs instead of in the heart of their downtown area.


So Dick immediately picked up the phone and lobbied against the idea. Dick’s steely determination against the idea led to the formation of the political action committee Grand Action, which was devoted to changing the skyline of Grand Rapids for the better. To make a long story short, it led to the construction of the DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Performance Hall and the medical school associated with Michigan State University.


These achievements are not an anomaly either. Both of the DeVoses have not just influenced the city of Grand Rapids for the better, but they have also influenced the whole entire state of Michigan for the better as well. First of all, Dick has been largely credited with changing Michigan from the birthplace of the union to a right-to-work state. One of the main downfalls of unions has always been that they can have a negative effect on the economy if they are overused. Such was the case in Michigan and one of the main reasons why Mr. DeVos spoke up. Of course, Betsy has long been an advocate for parents having a choice to send their child to charter schools, simply because it gives more competition to the often-underperforming public schools.


If Dick had accomplished just these things alone it would be impressive, but his imprint is also on the airport at Grand Rapids as well. A number of years ago, DeVos gave the CEO of the airport a call. His task was to convince them to offer non-stop flights through the services of Southwest. To make a long story short, he got it in place and got Southwest on board as well. This led to the airport receiving $45 millions in remodeling projects.


The best way to sum it up? One of the best things to happen to Grand Rapids would have to be Dick and Betsy DeVos.


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