Dick DeVos: An Agent of Change in the Business World

Dick DeVos has been fighting the good fight to drive institutional change in local politics since the early 1990s. He and his wife, Betsy, have leveraged their positions in the business community and their considerable resources to push back against the tired policies that local and state government officials wanted to enact. They’ve made progress in these efforts over the years, helping to reform local education and investment policies.


It all started in 1991 when the City of Grand Rapids began considering a plan to create a downtown sports arena. Dick DeVos was quick to realize it was a bad idea. He’s seen what happened to Detroit’s city finances before when the Lions and the Pistons abandoned the city in the 1970s, leaving the local government with a hole in its budget.


DeVos lead a lobbying initiative among the Grand Rapids business community called Grand Action. The group didn’t stop with defeating the ill-conceived sports arena proposal, though. It went on to be the driving force behind several successful projects that have helped revitalize Grand Rapids’ downtown. These included the DeVos Place Convention Center, the DeVos Performance Hall, and Michigan State University’s medical school. Over the years, these projects have redrawn Grand Rapids’ skyline and put a leash on its trend towards suburban sprawl.


In the meantime, Betsy DeVos was leading efforts to liberalize public education in Michigan by advocating for school vouchers and charter schools, and Dick DeVos has pitched his own efforts towards those causes. Drawing from his own passion for piloting, he worked to see the West Michigan Aviation Academy open its doors in 2010 at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. The school began with only 80 students but has grown since then to serve over 600 from surrounding counties.


The DeVoses also created the Great Lakes Education Project to advocate for school choice. Just this last year, the Project led an effort to block a proposal in Michigan to form a commission for decision-making regarding charter school openings.


Dick DeVos’s interest in aviation, however, hasn’t stopped at education reform. He was recently chosen by the Trump Administration to fill a seat at the FAA’s Management Advisory Council. In that position, DeVos will be able to lend his unique vision for reform in aviation as the Council plans the course for the FAA over the next three years.


A big part of the reason for that appointment was Dick’s role in saving the Gerald R. Ford International Airport when it looked to be in a downward spiral. He worked with a group of businessmen like himself to persuade Southwest Airlines into adding routes to the airport from Grand Rapids. The added commuter traffic was just what was needed at the time to reduce airfares and give the Gerald R. Ford International Airport the visibility it needed to become more successful. Learn more: http://www.celebfamily.com/business/richard-devos-family.html