In 1991, Dick Devos lobbied against the idea of building a Grand Rapids multi-purpose sports and convention arena. He was concerned that this arena would have the same unwanted results as the construction of the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit had once the Lions left during the 70’s. DeVoS had been the CEO of Amway at that time and said it was a lesson that was not lost on him.
His efforts against the sports facility led to the creation of Grand Action. This group of business leaders was the force behind the construction of the DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Performance Hall, Michigan State University’s medical school, and the Grand Rapids City Market which changed the Grand Rapids skyline.
Dick and Betsy DeVos are heirs to their family’s fortunes, and they have spent much of their time bringing change to policies and institutions. They have catalyzed major changes to state laws affecting labor and education as GOP mega-donors, but their influence goes beyond Republican politics.
The Dick and Betty DeVos Family Foundation gave away $138.7 million between 1989 and 2015 to the arts, leadership programs, churches, health and human services, and educational reform. They donated $12.5 million to the 2006 construction of the Spectrum Health System’s children’s hospital which was named after Dick’s mother.
Dick Devos is one of the newest members of the Management Advisory Council. This is a civilian panel that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration. His love of flight also provoked him to start the nonprofit charter school known as West Michigan Aviation Academy in 2010. He is credited with putting the Grand Rapids airport on the map by talking the CEO into running nonstop flights out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport to Orlando and Boston. This plan was further bolstered when Southwest Airlines bought out the Grand Rapids carrier.
Although the Devos have many successful efforts under their belt, they have not always been able to sway the public. In 2006, DeVos lost a campaign for governor. Before that, voters rejected a DeVos sponsored constitutional amendment that would have created tax funded vouchers to allow students into private schools. The Devos never gave up. They switched their focus to other areas of the country, and now there are twenty-four states with some type of private school vouchers available. Learn more: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20170602/NEWS/170609993/dick-and-betsy-devos