Entrepreneur Dick DeVos
Dick DeVos has been working with the FAA for the past year. He was nominated to the Management Advisory Council in September 2017 and has continued to help the agency throughout 2018. His nomination wasn’t a surprise to those who know him, but others who didn’t peg him for the aviation leader type found out that he has been in aviation business for many years.
In fact, DeVos started working in aviation long before his appointment to the special council for the FAA. He now works alongside transportation authorities and airline executives in the Management Advisory Council, but before that, he was working in philanthropy and with his own private equity firm The Windquest Group.
For people like the CEO of Southwest and the CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Dick DeVos has shown his business acumen by putting the Grand Rapids airport on the map. In the early 1990s, there was nothing happening in Grand Rapids. It was the hometown of the DeVos family, but there was little to no business economy in downtown Grand Rapids.
So, DeVos started to do something about that. He wanted to work with city leaders and businesses to build a better future for the city. What he did allowed the city to grow rapidly for the past few decades, leading to a bigger airport as well and more travelers heading through the Grand Rapids area.
How did DeVos achieve this? He started by working with the business owners in downtown and funding the building of several new areas around the business district. He developed the DeVos Place Convention Center and DeVos Performance Hall. Then, he looked to the airport as the next place for growth. He wanted to help the CEO do something more with the airport.
He started by making a phone call to Air Tran Airways CEO in the early 2000s. He asked if the CEO would be willing to open up new destinations at the Grand Rapids location. DeVos had a plan to bring in more business travelers, which he felt was a popular niche market that could change things around for the small airport. DeVos was right. In just a year, the airport managed to bring in more business than ever. New ticket sales flew threw the roof.
By 2018, the airport would have to expand as well. A $45 million expansion went through allowing for new areas of the airport to be built, such as the business traveler center and new food court area.
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