Dick DeVos is one of the most iconic businessmen in the country and is revered by many for his commitment to promoting economic development in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His major involvement in the planning and development of the downtown area began in the 1990s when he opposed the construction of a massive convention center. DeVos’ position was that the city was not taking a lesson from the history of Detroit in the 1970s. Detroit suffered economically after the construction of the Pontiac Silverdome and the Palace of Auburn Hills when Lions and Pistons left the city. Rather than promoting tourism and recreation, DeVos was convinced that a large convention center would detract from the overall business development of the downtown Grand Rapids area.
DeVos was a respected voice in terms of business development because of his impressive tenure as the CEO of Amway for almost a decade. He was responsible for rapid growth within the company and brought a large number of jobs back to Michigan. Throughout his leadership of the company, DeVos remained a staunch advocate for the continued development of the downtown area. Since a sports convention center was ultimately not built in the downtown zone, DeVos paved the way for the Van Andel Arena and the DeVos Convention Center. This was also where Michigan State University’s medical school was constructed. These additions to the downtown area were credited with spurring job growth.
Along with his time, energy and resources spent on the sustainable development of the downtown area, DeVos was a significant voice in the public school reform movement by promoting school choice. He worked faithfully on this cause alongside his wife, Betsy DeVos. She eventually became the U.S. Education Secretary under President Donald Trump. DeVos was ingenious in developing advocacy coalitions to fuel the spread of information about the advantages of school choice. His involvement in the public education reform campaign ended up being much more influential than that of other business leaders because he did so much more than simply donate to meaningful causes. DeVos relied on his business connections and political experience to thrust school choice into the national limelight.
DeVos went so far as to create his own charter school in Michigan based on his lifelong passion for aviation. His school operated out of the Grand Rapids International Airport and served as an aviation charter school, which was the first of its kind in the U.S. In 2006, he ran as a Republic to become the governor of Michigan, but he lost the race to then-incumbent Jennifer Granholm. Despite this loss, DeVos has remained an active voice in national politics ever since and shows no signs of slowing down soon.
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