Dick DeVos was on his way to becoming the CEO of his father’s company Amway when he changed course. He saw plans for a new downtown commerce movement, but he saw issues with the city planning, as it would draw interest away from an established business district. He began lobbying over the phone and offering to help with the construction.
This work led to a completely new movement of business travelers to the Grand Rapids area, as well as all new buildings in the downtown area. These include the DeVos Performing Arts Hall, DeVos Place Convention Center, and a new sports arena.
In addition, DeVos began working with the CEO of the nearby airport. While the location had been around since the early 1900s, the airport had never been upgraded and was in desperate need of new destinations. Ticket sales had slumped by the late 1990s, and DeVos stepped in to help. He spoke to the CEO of AirTran Airways and negotiated for four new destinations.
DeVos had a strategy in mind. He wanted to add destinations to other popular conference and business traveler destinations, such as Las Vegas and Orlando. He wanted Grand Rapids to join the circuit, and thanks to its new construction projects, the city instantly became a popular destination for new tourism.
Since then, DeVos has continued to work with the airport, particularly on a renovation known as the Gateway Transformation Project. Along with a new business traveler’s center, the updates would include advanced technology, convenient options, modern security technology, and a new food court area. The airport is now an award-winning location that saw over 3 million travelers in one year in 2019.
DeVos has also been working in Washington with the FAA. His knowledge of airports and working with airlines has made it possible for the FAA to feel confident in renovation projects, such as the new GSO Tower.