Do you know who Dick DeVos is? Most people think that he is the CEO and President of Amway. However, that was true in the late 1990s and early 2000s. You also might be thinking of his father, Richard DeVos, who founded the company in the 1970s. He’s also the husband of the 11th US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. His family has one of the largest charitable organizations, the DeVos Family Foundation, which has donated over $139 million to charities.
What you may not know is that DeVos has recently joined the Federal Aviation Administration via its new Management Advisory Council. The council is comprised of 13 members from transportation and airline executive backgrounds. While DeVos has neither, he has a keen business acumen that has led an airport’s strategy for over two decades, and it has improved its sales handsomely. In fact, the airport just went through a $45 million expansion in 2018.
So how did DeVos do this? It started with one phone call.
Most say that DeVos put Grand Rapids on the map. What they mean by that is he used his business connections and strategies to build up the city from nothing in the 1990s. This is also how he helped the Grand Rapids airport. Before the change in 2000, the Grand Rapids airport was a small executive airport that no one really knew about, even though it had been open since the early 1900s. The airport re-launched in 1999 as the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, but it was still a small airport that no one really cared about.
That was until DeVos made a phone call to AirTran Airways. At the time, AirTran Airways owned a few terminals at the airport. DeVos wanted the CEO to add in new flights. He had specific destinations in mind. It was DeVos’ idea to turn Grand Rapids into a business conference destinations, such as Orlando and Vegas. Those were two of the destinations that he asked to be added to the flights for AirTran, as well as St. Louis and Denver.
AirTran Airways agreed, and in a few months time, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport was actually seeing real sales. This would include mostly business travelers, but it led to some incredible expansion throughout the past 10 years. Now the airport has many more airlines, with its major airline being Southwest Airlines. That’s no surprise as the CEO of Southwest recently praised the FAA for nominating Dick DeVos to the council.
DeVos has been meeting with the FAA along with the council to suggest new policies, regulations, future growth ideas, and budgets. The FAA has been making some changes, including a $40 million upgrade to the GSO Tower. DeVos has some ideas that could help the FAA change and upgrade airport technology as well.
Read http://dickdevos.com/news/ to learn more.