Back in 1991, a plan was announced to build a sports and convention arena just North of downtown Grand Rapids. As soon as he heard about the plan, Dick DeVos took action and started to lobby against it. He believed that building the convention center at that location would have a negative effect on downtown Grand Rapids, just like building the Palace of Auburn and Pontiac Silverdome was detrimental to Detroit when their two popular sports teams left the city in the 1970s.
As a result of Dick DeVos’ campaign against building a sports facility outside the downtown area, a group called Grand Action was formed. It brought together a wide variety of business leaders and is credited as being the driving force behind building the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Grand Rapids City Market, Michigan State University’s medical school and the DeVos Performance Hall.
Many believe that these local attractions have had a very positive effects on the Grand Rapids skyline. They’ve also changed the trajectory that the city has taken, as they’re credited with preventing suburban sprawl.
Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy are both heirs to two large family fortunes. They’ve spent a large portion of their lives attempting to influence policies they believe in and change institutions for the better. They’re mega-donors to the Republican party, which has allowed their political influence to bring forward major changes in Michigan, especially when it comes to education and labor related issues.
Betsy DeVos is well known for pushing for the expansion of charter schools. Dick DeVos helped put together a 2012 law that changed Michigan, widely known as the birthplace of organized labor, to a right-to-work state, which allows employees the option to choose whether they’re part of a union or not.
Dick DeVos and his wife are widely known for their charitable efforts. In the time period from 1989 to 2015, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has been responsible for distributing more than $138.7 million to a variety of causes, such as scholarships that help low-income students attend private schools, policy initiatives based on education, arts and culture, churches, health and human services, as well as leadership programs.
About Dick DeVos
Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dick DeVos is a well-known entrepreneur and businessman. He’s the son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos and served as the company’s CEO from 1993 to 2002. In addition to his business activities, he’s also a famous philanthropist. One of the ways he gave back to his home state is by opening the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a charter high school that became the first aviation public high school in the nation.
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