Dick DeVos has been an important figure in the landscape of Michigan’s political scene for nearly thirty years. DeVos is the former Amway CEO as well as the former owner of the Orlando Magic. Despite his big business background, DeVos is probably more remembered for the hand that he has played in the development of Grand Rapids, MI. Dating back to 1991, DeVos has been instrumental in the way that the city has grown over the years, and it all revolves around a single decision that DeVos helped to engineer.
In 1991, the city of Grand Rapids was looking to add a multi-purpose convention center just north of downtown. Grand Rapids was looking to do something that ended up causing real problems in Detroit. Detroit had famously fallen on hard times, due in part to how to separate pro sports teams had abandoned arenas in the Motor City. When the Detroit Lions and the Detroit Pistons abandoned their respective arenas, the city of Detroit ended up struggling. DeVos pointed to Detroit’s struggles as a reason to oppose Grand Rapids pursuing the same path. Still, the allure of a new convention center was strong.
In order to fight back against the new convention center, DeVos would put together the Grand Action group. The Grand Action group was comprised of business leaders who all stood against the convention center and what it would do to the city. The members of the group ended up lobbying against the convention center’s construction before ultimately coming away successful. With that being said, Grand Action did more than just argue against the convention center, they put their money where their mouth was. Over the course of the intervening years, the Grand Action group is responsible for fundamentally changing the Grand Rapids skyline. DeVos and his team are personally responsible for the development of the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Grand Rapids City Market, and the Van Andel Arena. In effect, the Grand Action Group helped to pull together a city that was in danger of falling victim to suburban sprawl.
While Dick DeVos certainly has established himself in the region, he isn’t the only member of the family that is getting things done. Betsy DeVos, Dick DeVos’s wife, is the Secretary of Education for the Trump Administration. Both Dick and Betsy DeVos have been staunch advocates for conservative-based education reform throughout their lives. They’ve personally donated time and money toward supporting school choice-based reformation. Due to the work that the DeVos family has undertaken, twenty-four states have already embraced some aspect of voucher systems for private schools. Who knows what success the DeVos family will have in the coming years? What we know now is this, the DeVos family continues to make an impact.
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