As many politicians in Michigan come together to support a better economy, Dick DeVos has been at the forefront of economical change in West Michigan. For years, he worked with the business leaders in this town to do something better for the city. Through philanthropic work, DeVos also brought in his wife, Betsy DeVos, to become apart of many projects.
Together, the power couple in Michgan’s Republic Party took on education reform, rebuilding Michigan communities, and supporting aviation. DeVos had a keen eye for what could help his hometown of Grand Rapids. Since he had grown up there, he knew many of the business leaders in West Michigan. They were complaining about the lack of activity in downtown, and it only seemed to be getting worse. In the 1990s, Michigan had some of the worst economic declines, particularly in Detroit.
Grand Rapids could rise out of the economic dust with a little help, which is what Dick DeVos set out to do. He worked with a group called Grand Action in the 1990s to affect changes around downtown. This includes the construction of several entertainment centers. The idea was that people would come back to the city of town if they had a reason to.
DeVos set out to work with these leaders to build the DeVos Performance Hall, DeVos Place Convention Center, and Andel Arena. With a sports arena, convention center, and entertainment complex, the city was able to start thriving again. However, DeVos had one more idea to help make these changes more permanent and bring more commerce back to Grand Rapids.
The nearby airport had been there since the 1900s, but it hadn’t changed much since that time. DeVos knew that in order to bring in business travelers, he had to work with the airlines at the Grand Rapids airport location. He started by calling the AirTran Airways’ CEO. He wanted to get help from the CEO and talked about the various ways that the airport could be improved. He specifically wanted AirTran to add on four new flights.
These flights were strategic at first. DeVos wanted to add Orlando, Denver, St. Louis, and Vegas. These were all popular conference destinations, and he thought that by organizing the new airport around business travelers, they would achieve a better economy and earn more international ticket sales.
This inevitably worked, and the flights were added. DeVos was able to show that the airport would boom in growth with just the addition of these few destinations. By 2018, the airport was seeing 3.26 million passengers, and it had undergone severe changes as part of the Gateway Transformation Project.
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