While most people have seen Betsy Devos, the new US Education Secretary, they may not have realized that she was married to Dick Devos of Amway fame, whose probably most famous for his trade deal with Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic. However, that’s long ago in Devos’ past. He’s now one of the top businessmen in the world, and he has the history to prove it.
One of the things that marked his career at Amway was his attention to global commerce and bringing in new opportunities. He was able to create a recordbreaking sales year for the company and continued to do so throughout the 1990s. However, it was also during this time that he saw more opportunities to help local businesses achieve greater commerce in his hometown. He wanted to help Grand Rapids get on the map, so to speak.
He started working with a variety of business leaders in his hometown. What disturbed him most was that they didn’t really have plans to build up the business district in downtown Grand Rapids. Many of the plans were for other areas, which he associated with failed sports arenas in Detroit. Devos saw more opportunities in building up the central businesses of the downtown area to bring in new interest and growth.
This led to the formation of Grand Action as well as the building of several organizations and businesses in the downtown area, such as the Devos Performing Arts Center and Convention Center. However, Devos didn’t stop there. He wanted to work with the airport most of all. He saw it as the biggest way to increase Grand Rapids’ growth and jobs.
In 1999, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport had just re-launched and was looking for some new business. Even with the remodel, the airport wasn’t doing so well in ticket sales. People just weren’t taking flights into the little airport. Devos was able to work with the CEO to stop the ticket sales from dying completely by talking to Air Tran Airways’ CEO. He wanted to make sure that the airport had all of the flights available like other airports in the area. Air Tran agreed to open up new terminals to St. Louis, Denver, Orlando, and Vegas.
It’s actions like these that make Dick Devos a prime candidate to work in the FAA. He currently has been appointed the the Management Advisory Council where he provides advice to the council on budgets, growth, and policies.
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