Dick Devos: A Philanthropist

Did you know that Dick Devos is in Washington now, too? His wife, the 11th Secretary of Education Betsy Devos was appointed to office in 2017. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that Devos began joining her in Washington, after he was tapped by the FAA.


The Federal Aviation Administration has been on the lookout for new talent for the Management Advisory Council. The council consists of 13 individuals from transportation authority and airline business backgrounds. Some of the members are former executives from popular airlines. Dick Devos’ nomination was praised by the CEO of Southwest, who said that there wasn’t a better person to help the FAA with its new directives.


Part of that is because of his assistance with his hometown airport. In the 1990s, Grand Rapids was in a bit of a slump. The business leaders were looking at city plans for a sports arena and wanted Devos’ help. Initially, Devos rejected the plans for a new sports arena and convention center. He saw that that plans would place construction away from the downtown center. He didn’t want to do that. There were flashbacks to problems in Detroit with the Pontiac SilverDome.


So, Devos helped through a committee formed called Grand Action. The committee was responsible for building the Andel Arena, Devos Place Convention Center, and Devos Performance Hall. However, Devos had a much bigger plan to bring in new traffic to the city. He just needed to partner with the airport.


He started working with the Grand Rapids airport in 1999. The airport had just went through a major re-launch, but it was still losing money. Devos saw that there was an opportunity for a new market, and he spoke with one of the airlines at the airport, AirTran Airways. He called up the CEO and asked if new destinations could be added. These would include places like Orlando, St. Louis, Denver, and Vegas.


The new destinations were a hit and instantly brought in new traffic. Over the years, the airport would expand, but nothing compared to the 2018 expansion, which cost over $45 million. The fund was put together by the airlines at the airport, and it would include a new business traveler’s center.


The new strategy had worked, and it was business ideas like this one that got Devos noticed by the FAA. He will continue to meet with the agency for the next year.


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