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Dick Devos: Businessman and Philanthropist

For well over two decades, Dick DeVos has been changing the face of Grand Rapids. This town has a rich history in the private sector, and many know of it as the birthplace of organized labor. Over the last few years, Dick and his wife Betsy have changed the skyline of Grand Rapids by getting behind a variety of new businesses, athletic centers, and non-profit organizations. From a cutting-edge sports facility to the new convention park, this town has become a bustling hub of activity.


In 1991, there was a plan to invest public money in a multi-purpose sports complex in the area just north of downtown Grand Rapids. As soon as DeVos heard about that plan, he quickly contacted dozens of local business owners and created a committee known as Grand Action. After seeing other cities and states struggle with failing sports complexes, DeVos decided to take action so that his hometown wouldn’t meet the same fate.


Instead of building a complex outside of the city, Grand Action petitioned to have the Van Andel Arena constructed in the heart of the business district. In addition to the new arena, this committee was also the driving force behind dozens of other building projects including the DeVos Performance Hall and Grand Rapids City Market. DeVos claims that his goal was to improve the skyline while staunching suburban sprawl.


Dick and Betsy DeVos aren’t just known for their business acumen. From 1989 to 2015, their non-profit foundation donated over $138 million to a wide variety of leadership programs, churches, health service organizations, and scholarship funds. In 2006, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation donated just over $12 million to a children’s hospital in the Spectrum Health System. That money has helped parents remain with their children while they are being treated for chronic illnesses.


Over the last few years, one of Dick’s largest projects has been the revitalization of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. DeVos decided to cold-call the CEO of AirTran Airways and ask if he would run nonstop flights out of this aging airport, and the CEO agreed to set those flight paths up within the coming months. AirTrain Airways was then purchased by Southwest, and that brought in additional revenue, tourists, and business opportunities.


Dick DeVos has recently been appointed to the top civilian panel that oversees the FAA. He is now part of the Management Advisory Council that manages general FAA policies, long-term planning, and regulatory matters.


Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/ to learn more.

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