Dick DeVos is THE Businessman in Aviation

For the past few decades, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport has experienced exceptional growth. This may not be exciting to many of those outside of the aviation world, but it should be a lesson in business relationships and philanthropy. In the 1990s, the airport was falling apart and suffered stagnant growth. In fact, the airport may have filed bankruptcy if it wasn’t for one action.


Dick DeVos is the son of legendary Richard DeVos, who was the co-founder of Amway Arenas. Amway is a top Fortune 500 company even though most of its business revolves around sports arenas, and yet, the company has had record-breaking sales across the world for many years. Dick DeVos has been apart of this legacy as he served as Vice President of the company throughout the 1980s.


However, when he went back to his hometown in the 1990s, he saw that the economic depression was taking over. He wanted to help businesses, and so he started to work with business leaders in the area to change the fate of Grand Rapids. He first wanted to build up the business district. Together, the group called Grand Action built up a sports arena, performance hall, and convention center.


The convention center would play a major role in DeVos’ overall plan to save the airport and thus catapult Grand Rapids into legendary fame. Soon, Grand Rapids would become a large metropolis in western Michigan, and the airport would be handling 3.26 million or more passengers per year. However, in 2000, the airport was about to go under.


DeVos had to step in to help the airport, and he began by making a phone call to the CEO of AirTran Airways. The CEO had previously worked with DeVos and wanted to make a deal with him. The airline would open up new flights to support the airport’s growth, and in turn, the airport would expand and increase ticket sales. The plan worked, and by 2010, the airport was a bustling airport. In fact, it was seeing so much action that when Southwest purchased AirTran, they kept open all of the terminals owned by the company and maintained the new flight destinations as well.


Now the airport is a model place for air travel and business travelers. There is a new business traveler center, food court, and concierge services, such as curbside pickup and fast security check-in technology.


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