Dick DeVos was there when Detroit began to fall apart in the early 1990s. He saw the metropolis fall into an economic crisis, and he couldn’t help but wonder if things would have been differently with a better location of the Pontiac SilverDome. The teams had left the city, and now it was an abandoned ghost town with little to no business activity in the main centers of commerce.
There were problems across Michigan at the time due to the economic crisis caused by manufacturers closing down factories across the state. West Michigan was hit hard by this, but DeVos saw that he could pull Grand Rapids out of the muck just by making a few phone calls. He started by talking to the business leaders in downtown Grand Rapids.
While he had just come off a period of working as the Vice President at Amway Arenas, he was now focused on helping his hometown out of their struggles. He saw that he could help the most by partnering up with the business leaders and taking part in a group called Grand Action. This group would lead the way in re-building Grand Rapids, adding in new areas like the DeVos Performance Hall, convention center, and Andel Arena. These new buildings were meant to bring back the commerce to the center of town.
DeVos knew that there had to be more than one way to bring in new traffic and business. He saw a huge potential in business flyers or business travelers who were looking for new conventions and conferences to go to. He wanted to bring some of that business to Grand Rapids. While theyhad just built up the convention center, he knew that if the airport could add on some new flights to Orlando, Vegas, Denver, and St. Louis, he would be able to capture the market.
So he worked with the CEO of AirTran Airways to open up new destinations, including all of the ones on his list. This allowed the airport to sell more tickets and accelerated the growth of the airport for many years. In fact, the airport has gotten so popular that it has now won awards for its technology and convenience. It also surpassed 3.26 million passengers in 2018.
DeVos has been working hard with the FAA to help other airpots and provide advice on how he was able to achieve this success in his hometown. He wants to strengthen the industry as a whole and plans to help with budgeting, future growth plans, policies, and regulations as part of the Management Advisory Council.
In addition, DeVos has been working hard to ensure that his hometown continues to have big business gains. He meets with the council every quarter.
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