Have you heard the news about Dick DeVos? He is joining his wife in Washington with his latest appointment to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council. The appointment comes after many years of working in the aviation industry even as he led companies like Amway and The Windquest Group. The new council is set to meet once quarter and includes many of transportation officials and airline executives who DeVos has worked with in the past through his partnership with the Grand Rapids International Airport.
Launched in the late 1990s, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport was originally a smaller airport that serviced business travelers from Canada. However, as the airport has grown, it has expanded many of its terminals and flights. Part of that comes from the relationship with Dick DeVos. The CEO of the airport asked DeVos to help grow the airport in the late 1990s, and DeVos agreed.
He had many business connections with those in aviation already, including airline executives. He made a phone call to Air Tran Airways and talked to the CEO about expanding what the airline was doing at the Grand Rapids location. That led to flights being opened up for Denver, Orlando, St. Louis, and Vegas. New business travelers made the airport incredibly popular, and everything seemed to be falling into place.
In the early 2000s, Southwest bought out Air Tran Airways. There were rumors about the airline shuttering multiple terminals in different airports. However, DeVos called the CEO to work with him on a plan for Grand Rapids airport. He knew that it was important to the airport’s success that the airline expanded, not shuttered, the terminals already there. The CEO agreed to keep those terminals and also made a pact to expand what the airline was offering as well.
By the late 2010s, DeVos had worked with many of the airlines at the airport. He wanted to expand even further. A $45 million renovation project was put together in order to build new areas like a business traveler center and food court area. There were also upgrades to the technology at each terminal. The new renovations are set to complete in 2018.
As many people have probably figured out, DeVos has been in the political arena before. He campaigned to be the governor of Michigan in 2006. His platform was built upon educational choice. He had the support of his wife, who had championed a bill called “Kids First! Coalition.” While he did not receive the governorship, he has been steadily working through philanthropy to build up Grand Rapids and focused on his business aspirations.
The private aviation school on the Gerald R. Ford grounds is another example of his passion and dedication to the industry. The school teaches students about the aviation industry and helps them become pilots through graduation.
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