There has been a lot of news lately around the DeVos family. It’s no surprise. With US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos sweeping the country with educational reform and her husband Dick DeVos joining the FAA’s new council, the couple has become the topic of political circles. The DeVos family is one of prestige and business. Dick DeVos has founded several companies and led Amway to significant growth throughout the 1990s.
However, it is his work in Grand Rapids and the Gerald R. Ford International Airport that has earned him a spot on the 13-member council newly created by the Federal Aviation Administration. While many think of DeVos as a global business man, they may not know of his roots in aviation and his passion for flight. As a pilot himself, he has seen various ways to contribute to the aviation industry while still maintaining his position as President and CEO of Amway for many years.
As an aviation enthusiast, DeVos had always wanted an airport close to his hometown of Grand Rapids. In the early 1990s, he started seeing projects to help build up the city. While there were many ideas, he didn’t see ones that would support commerce and business growth in the downtown area. He had witnessed what happened to Detroit during the Pontiac Silverdome era and the leaving of multiple sports teams at once. While he had plans to build a sports complex and convention center, he wanted to figure out another way to bring in new business to the air.
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport was launched in the late 1990s. It catered to international business travelers from Canada and Mexico. However, the flights were not as expanded as other nearby airports. DeVos worked with the CEO of Air Tran Airways to help change that. The airline agreed to open new flights to Orlando, St. Louis, Denver, and Vegas. Those changes helped to expand the airport dramatically and bring in new traffic.
However, by the early 2000s, there were some issues with the airport’s growth. The CEO of Southwest agreed to keep and expand terminals even though many of the terminals were being closed in other airports. That help led to the Gerald R. Ford International Airport expanding even more. This added new growth and jobs to the area even as business leaders struggled to figure out what to do about a failing downtown.
DeVos has worked with these leaders to make solid changes that would grow the city of Grand Rapids over time. Now the city has a bustling downtown area with a new convention center and performing arts complex.
The new council will meet every three months to advise the FAA on what to do next. DeVos will be a solid contributor who has the business acumen of both worlds.
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