During the 1990s, Michigan had hit a wall in terms of development. Many businesses were pulling out of the cities in Michigan due to problems with abandoned buildings and poverty. A large part of the problem came from GM’s upheaval of factories, but it also had to do with the lack of economic strength in Michigan’s cities.
The DeVos family is likely the richest family from Michigan. Richard DeVos was the co-founder and owner of Amway Arenas. His son Dick DeVos has also built his own company and now takes on the legacy of his father in the wake of his death. Richard DeVos Sr. died in September 2018. He left behind a wonderful legacy that transcended sales charts across the US and the rest of the world.
Dick DeVos is apart of that legacy. As Richard DeVos Jr., he led global sales at the company for many years, setting record-breaking numbers in the 1980s and early 1990s. After this time, Devos wanted to do something else with his talents. He started looking for ways to improve his hometown of Grand Rapids. He wanted to work with businesses in this area and started by talking to leaders who needed help with development plans.
There were plenty of building plans for Grand Rapids, but Dick DeVos didn’t like the locations for many of the projects. They reminded him of Detroit, when the Pontiac SilverDome went under because it was built too far away from the city’s center. In this way, he started to work with the business leaders to create new areas around the central business district. He was careful to include the DeVos Place Convention Center in these plans.
That’s because the convention center was going to be apart of a much larger plan to bring in new travelers and visitors to Grand Rapids. DeVos wanted to target the business traveler market, so he began by talking to the CEO at the airport. He wanted to help the airport get more sales in. He started by talking to the executives at AirTran Airways. He convinced the CEO to add on four new flights to Orlando, St. Louis, Denver, and Las Vegas. These new flights inspired instant ticket sales growth, but it would also lead to an influx of business travelers.
Now called the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, the airport would go on to do booming sales and change the way that people looked at Grand Rapids forever. The airport would also receive $45 million in funding for renovations and a new business traveler lounge by 2019. The airport even surpassed its goal of 3 million passengers in 2017, hitting 3.26 million passengers by 2018.
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