Dick DeVos is the kind of person who does not complain about civic matters; he does something about them. Back in the early 1990s, Grand Rapids wasn’t planning to build the sports and convention arena downtown, which DeVos knew would hurt the city’s downtown economic development. He had seen how Detroit hurt when they built the Pontiac Silverdome outside the city. DeVos helped form Grand Action group with other business leaders to keep Grand Rapids’ downtown alive. The group helped bring the DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Performance Hall and Michigan State University’s medical school to downtown Grand Rapids.
DeVos also took action to improve Grand Rapids’ airport, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. He called the CEO of AirTran Airways, now Southwest, into running nonstop flights from the airport. In 2018, the airport underwent a major renovation because of the growth in passengers. DeVos had a good reason for lobbying for the airport, his charter school, West Michigan Aviation Academy, is at the airport. It’s a free school open to students who want a career in the aviation industry. DeVos’ planes are also housed in his corporate hangar at the airport. DeVos also set up a private organization of area companies, the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, to help the airport become an important part of Grand Rapid’s economic success. The FAA was impressed by DeVos’ hard work, which earned him a place on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council.
After graduating from Northwood University, DeVos spent many years working at Amway, a company his father co-founded. He was also president and CEO of the Orlando Magic basketball franchise. Today, DeVos owns the Windquest Group, an investment management company specializing in alternative energy.
DeVos and his wife Betsy have given millions charities, including the arts, churches and education reform organizations. Both support school choice programs. They also donated $12.5 million to Spectrum Health System’s children’s hospital. Dick DeVos is the chairperson of Spectrum’s corporate board. Organizations DeVos and his wife support include Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Princeton University and Kids Hope USA.
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