Most people don’t realize this but Dick DeVos has always been a fan of aviation. As a pilot and co-founder of a pilot training school, DeVos has always been interested in the future of aviation business, too. His work with the local charter school on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford International School has earned him considerable praise for his leadership.
DeVos has been working closely with leaders in his hometown since the early 1990s. He had just left Amway Arena and given up the Vice President of International Sales to work with local businesses and bring back economic traffic to western Michigan. The economy had been on a steady decline since several manufacturers had left the state. One of the hardest hit cities was Detroit, which became a ghost town after the sports teams left. All that remained was the Pontiac SilverDome.
DeVos did not forget the lesson in city planning. The arena was too far away from other businesses, and as Detroit didn’t have a center to build upon, it caused even more economic upheaval for the business district. DeVos didn’t want to see that happen in Grand Rapids. However, it was already underway when he started to take notice in the early 1990s.
This trend to an economic downturn had to be stopped, and so DeVos started to meet with the business leaders and come up with a plan to circumvent the economic crisis happening in Michigan. The group was called Grand Action, and together, the group was responsible for multiple areas of downtown Grand Rapids being constructed in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, and DeVos Performance Hall were three of the more prominent structures built during this time. DeVos saw that if he could bring more people to the downtown area, businesses would come back. The plan worked, and Grand Rapids began to slowly pull out of its stagnant period towards 2001.
DeVos wanted to go a step further though. He wanted to bring more people to the city who weren’t necessarily local. He thought of business travelers and wanted to create an airport that would provide them with everything that they needed for a convenient, fast, and effortless trip. He also wanted to hook into international business flight customers which is why he talked to the CEO of AirTran Airways. He knew that if he could get new destinations added to their terminals, that he would see an increase in ticket sales.
This is the main reason why DeVos is credited with putting the airport on the map, and it’s how he became a member of the FAA’s Management Business Advisory Council. With his help, the FAA has bene able to work with airports and create new projects to improve technology and commerce.
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