Category Archives: Philanthropy

Dick DeVos: revamping Michigan

Have you seen the news in Washington? Dick DeVos is one of the most well known businessman in America thanks to his work with Amway and putting his hometown of Grand Rapids on the map. In the early 1990s, DeVos was working for Amway as the vice president, and he improved global sales in record-breaking numbers. That type of prestige has followed him into every opportunity, even as he left his father’s company to do something for Grand Rapids.

 

At the time, there were hardly businesses remaining profitable in downtown Grand Rapids. Many business owners were complaining about a lack of traffic through downtown Grand Rapids, and it was clear that more businesses and entertainment needed to be placed near the central business district. DeVos had a plan. He brought all the leaders together and formed a committee known as Grand Action. In short time, the committee was able to get several buildings into downtown as well as a sports arena.

 

The DeVos Place Convention Center was key. DeVos wanted to put Grand Rapids on the map along with other business convention destinations. He wanted to turn Grand Rapids into a Denver, St. Louis, or Orlando location, where businesses could go for conferences and conventions. While it started by building the convention center in downtown, he turned his eye to the airport and started working with the CEO.

 

Together, they would bring in new flights through AirTran Airways. The CEO agreed to open more flights after one phone call with Dick DeVos, who showed him the strategy for bringing in more people and increasing ticket sales. DeVos had been right. In just two decades, the traffic through the airport has increased incredibly, up to 3.26 million passengers in 2018 alone. It’s also been named America’s top business airport.

 

How did all of this happen for a little airport with no traffic? DeVos made sure to bring in airlines and business travelers through his plan, ultimately creating a need for expansion. This led to a $45 million budget for the Gateway Transformation project, which just completed phase one in 2018. It will begin its next phase in 2019, which will update security and convenience technology throughout the airport.

 

Other airports are learning to do the same thing. They want to work with airlines and create more opportunities, bringing in more business travelers through incentives and great technology. However, it will take time to get all of these policies and regulations in place. This is why the FAA has turned to its new council for help. DeVos will work with the council for another two years.

 

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