Philanthropy and the Life of Dick DeVos

While many know him as the savvy businessman’s son, Richard DeVos Jr. has always walked his own path. In the 1980s, he did work as the Vice President of Amway, but his main concern became his hometown after that. He resigned and began working with local business leaders in the area to do more for commerce in downtown. He wanted to see his business flourish and do so well, which is why he began working with other leaders.


There were many plans to build up the area, from a sports arena to a convention center, but none of the plans were in the right place, according to DeVos. He stopped the plans of a sports arena far away from downtown, because he didn’t see how it would help businesses grow in the central areas of the city. He started to work with business leaders through a committee called Grand Action, which was responsible for building several areas of downtown, including DeVos Place Convention Center and DeVos Performance Hall.


After many years, he turned towards another strategy to bring in people to the city. He wanted to turn Grand Rapids into a business conference destination, so he began working with the CEO of the airport. He started to help him change the business model around travelers who wanted to visit conferences. It started with a phone call to the CEO of AirTran Airways.


With AirTran Airways, he asked if the CEO would be open to new flights from Las Vegas, St. Louis, Denver, and Orlando. These new flights instantly brought in ticket sales for the small airport, challenging its capacity. Plans were discussed for a renovation to be completed by 2019. This was called the Gateway Transformation Project.


As the FAA has been working with several airlines and airports lately, the goal will be to renovate other airports with the same model. Many airports require new updates to security and technology, and DeVos has experience with bringing airlines together to fund these changes. It’s the main reason that the Grand Rapids airport has become such a popular place to fly through and stop for if you are a business traveler.


DeVos will continue to work with the FAA throughout the next two years. He joins a council with other aviation enthusiasts in transportation authority backgrounds and airline executives.


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