Chris Holden

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Dick Devos – The Reformer

by Chris Holden - May 29th, 2019.
Filed under: Philanthropy.

Dick DeVos Is a Local Reformer

There are few business partners in America who’ve contributed more to government reform at all levels than Dick Devos and his wife Betsy. The two conservative scions of the Amway corporate fortune have been active in local, state, and federal policy reform since the 1990s. Their experience in politics began in 1991 when their hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan considered publicly funding a sports arena project.

 

Dick DeVos had paid close attention to consequences in Detroit when both the Lions and the Pistons left the city for greener pastures. Detroit’s city budget was damaged badly by the expense of an empty sports stadium that it had helped fund. DeVos was determined not to let Grand Rapids put itself at the same risk by building a stadium it couldn’t afford if it sat unused.

 

Using his considerable business network, DeVos organized a lobbying effort to convince Grand Rapids city government to refuse funding the project. The group that formed as a result of those early reform efforts called itself Grand Action. It went on to successfully lobby for more prudent developments like the DeVos Place Convention Center and the Van Andel Arena.

 

Those successes taught the DeVos couple how to pressure and persuade the political system into adopting business-friendly and conservative reforms. They took that skill and applied it to education reform campaigns for public charter school and school choice. Betsy spearheaded many of these efforts, but Dick DeVos was also instrumental in setting up a non-traditional charter school at a local airport in Grand Rapids. He leveraged his airline industry ties to help create and support the West Michigan Aviation Academy.

 

Dick DeVos also took his airport management and piloting expertise to the FAA when he was nominated to sit on the Management Advisory Council on September 28, 2017. The council meets quarterly to advise the FAA on matters of long-range infrastructure plans, airline regulations, and other policies that impact private businesses and travelers.

 

DeVos continues to be a political force in conservative politics as he and his wife sit in important policy-making positions at the FAA and the Department of Education. Their stars have been rising since they entered politics in the 1990s, and there’s no sign that their influence is waning.

 

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