Most people have seen Dick Devos in the news lately. His family has been in politics before. After all, his wife, the 11th US Secretary of Education, is Betsy Devos. The family also has been known for their philanthropic contributions to education reform, aviation education, and the arts. In Grand Rapids, the Devos family is much more well known. After all, it was Devos who had helped the city through some difficult times.
In the 1990s, Grand Rapids’ businesses were having a hard time in downtown. there wasn’t a central business district that was booming enough to hold traffic and bring in people. So Devos sought to work with some of the business leaders on city planning projects. This included the creation of Devos Performance Hall, Andel arena, and Devos Place Convention Center. It was these buildings and cultural centers that were going to help make the city a better place to live and work.
However, there were other things on Devos’ mind, such as how to bring in new people to the city? It all began with the Devos Place Convention Center. There were a lot of plans in the 1990s to build around Grand Rapids, but Devos shot down earlier plans because he wanted to make sure that the plans built up areas in the right places. He saw that the central part of downtown was important to growth, and he didn’t want to see what had happened in Detroit happen to Grand Rapids.
For that reason, he began working with Grand Action on other projects, and it was one of the reasons that he met the CEO of Grand Rapids’ nearby executive airport. The airport had just been through a re-launch in 1999. However, the airport still wasn’t bringing in enough traffic. The CEO asked if Devos would be able to help, and so Devos began to work with airlines at the airport. He wanted to see what airline would expand to certain cities.
Devos had a plan. It included the Devos Place Convention Center. He believed that he could bring in business leaders from all over by turning Grand Rapids into a convention center town. He talked to AirTran Airways at the airport and got the airline to open up four new destinations. This included Vegas, Orlando, St. Louis, and Denver. All of these locations were prime spots for business travelers.
In the end, it was these actions that got Devos a spot on the FAA’s council. He will meet with the council once every quarter.
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