Dick DeVos’s Fundamentals-Based Approach to West Michigan Business
In 1991, Dick DeVos helped establish the Grand Rapids Grand Action leadership group to address proposed downtown civic centers that he believed were somewhat aimless and myopic. In contrast, the group based its alternative proposals on goals and coordination with government and the support of principal operators.
Dick DeVos was the central player, leading a downtown revitalization effort. By working with local banks and carrying out an analysis of feasibility and economic impact, the group set to work on new and expanded facilities based on goals. Projects included a sports arena, a convention center, a renovated civic theater, a new hotel, an art museum, a city market and a biomedical research center.
Dick DeVos, whose early business life began with his family’s company, Amway, also undertook to revamp the economy surround local air travel.
He brought in a small regional carrier, AirTran, in part through incentives, which offered popular flights. The carrier’s purchase by Southwest Airlines enabled it to continue offering lower fares while increasing options.
AirTran also represented competition for the legacy carrier, Delta Airlines, which had until then kept prices high. Through business analysis, DeVos was able to find lucrative options for Delta in the form of international flights, allowing both carriers to offer services.
Lower fares, more options and an increased focus on hospitality and customer service surrounding the Grand Rapids international airport consequently opened up air travel options and the associated economy for the region.
Dick DeVos and his wife and former Secretary of Education for the United States, Betsy DeVos, also dedicate significant portions of time and resources to social and political causes.
Through the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, the couple has helped fund a local children’s hospital, offering pediatric care in the West Michigan region.
A major focus for both Dick and Betsy has also been educational choice through alternative learning platforms, such as homeschooling, remote learning, charter schools and vouchers for private schools, which provide alternatives outside of the prescribed public school options.