Dick DeVos Offers New Airport Ideas for the FAA

If you have heard of Amway Arenas, then you’ve likely heard of the DeVos family. Richard DeVos founded Amway in the 1970s with his partner Andel, and together they have been ruling the sports arena market worldwide for decades. His son Dick DeVos was instrumental at Amway in the 1980s for building and leading the international division, which achieved record-breaking sales at the time. However, DeVos saw that he could do something more with business strategy and financial investments.


He wanted to do something good, and he began to work with leaders around his hometown of Grand Rapids. He left Amway at this time to focus on a major problem in his home state. It wasn’t just his home town of Grand Rapids that was dealing with a recession. Much of the state had lost jobs due to manufacturing plants like GM leaving at the beginning of the 1990s. This led to the economic shutdown of many small cities, as well as the devastation of Detroit.


DeVos didn’t want to see that happen to his hometown, and so he began to work with business leaders and city planners to regain commerce and build up the tourism to Grand Rapids. What kind of tourist wants to go to western Michigan? Well, DeVos took a page from Las Vegas and Orlando. He wanted to build a business traveler paradise and a low-cost convention strategy that would attract all kinds of businesses in different industries.


After he worked with business leaders in downtown Grand Rapids, he saw an opportunity to grow the airport and incorporate the strategy into new aviation growth. The idea was that the airport would bring in business travelers who were headed to Orlando, Las Vegas, Denver, or St. Louis, which were other major convention cities.


With the new DeVos Place Convention Center, DeVos simply had to bring in new destinations to the airport. At the start of the 2000s, the airport barely had any sales for its current destinations. After one call to the CEO of AirTran Airways, he was able to add on four new flight destinations, which instantly boosted ticket sales. Over the next few decades, the airport would continue to grow, eventually leading to exponential rise in ticket sales. There were an estimated 3.3 million passengers heading through the airport in 2018, for example.


It was growth like this that the FAA wanted to capture for other airports. DeVos was appointed to the FAA’s new Management Advisory Council in 2017, and he’s been working with the agency ever since to affect change in America’s aviation industry. His work is largely with aviation renovation and expansion, as many airports simply don’t have the same technology as others in foreign markets. However, Gerald R. Ford International Airport underwent the Gateway Transformation Project to add technology, which is what the FAA is working on for other airports.


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