From the time he was young, Dick DeVos knew that he would work in business. His father was already a business leader. Richard DeVos was the co-founder and CEO of Amway for many years. He recently passed in 2018, during a time when the DeVos family was joining the political world. It was only a few decades before that they were in the business of sports arenas and teams.
Dick DeVos always aspired to do something outside of his family’s claim to fame. While he did start at Amway, he set records in sales while at the company, before he left to pursue other things. He started with his hometown. He saw what was happening in Detroit and wanted to give Grand Rapids a better future.
In the 1990s, Grand Rapids had become a stagnant town. There was hardly any economic growth. DeVos began to work with the business owners there to develop areas around the business district and hopefully bring back a bunch of business to downtown. While there were several plans to build up areas around downtown, there were no plans to build exciting new developments right in the economical area.
The business leaders and DeVos formed Grand Action, a committee that would start helping the city plan for bigger events and changing the skyline as well. Grand Action would go on to create things like the DeVos Place Convention Center, Andel Arena, and DeVos Performance Hall.
Once Grand Rapids had the look of a big city, it was still difficult to bring in new interest to the town. That’s why DeVos started to work with the airport. He saw an opportunity to create Grand Rapids into something anew. He wanted business travelers to see Grand Rapids as a conference destination. He started to work with the CEO of the airport and talked to the airline executives, eventually leading to new flights added at the airport.
The airport that was once hardly doing any business was now seeing thousands of passengers per day or more. By 2018, it would reach new records, as it surpassed 3.26 million passengers. The airport hadn’t even expected to hit this number until 2020. This type of growth had never been seen in Grand Rapids, but DeVos thought that it was about time to see this kind of development. The business traveler strategy worked, and soon, there were businesses popping up all over downtown Grand Rapids.
Now that DeVos has joined the Federal Aviation Administration in an advisory role, he has been able to work with airline executives and transportation officials to show his strategy and reveal how other airports can change their sales trajectory, as well as get funding for renovations.
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