The latest news from Washington is that Dick DeVos will soon be in Washington alongside his wife Betsy, current US Secretary of Education. DeVos recently spoke at the Economy Club after he accepted a new appointment to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council.
His appointment comes after years working within aviation and education reform in Michigan. While he has not always had political aspirations, the council is a great way to show his business skills and passion for aviation, especially after his experience turning around the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.
DeVos has been quite a businessman for most of his life. Son of Rich DeVos, Dick made a name for himself early by starting Grand Action in the early 1990s. Grand Action offered a way for business leaders to help mold the future of Grand Rapids and empower the downtown business district. DeVos also saw other opportunities to grow economically in Grand Rapids, starting with the airport.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the aviation industry went into a decline. There were all sorts of issues with flying for consumers, and people generally were not traveling as much for pleasure so much as for business. DeVos saw an opportunity to make Grand Rapids a better airport for business travelers.
At the time, he was the President of Amway and had a few relationships that could help change the fate of the defunct Gerald R. Ford airport. He spoke to the CEO of Air Tran Airways, who agreed to add more terminals to the airport, including destinations like St. Louis, Orlando, Denver, and Vegas. Over the years, he worked the airport to increase its business traveler accommodations and even talked to the CEO of Southwest when the company planned to shutter more terminals in its takeover of Air Tran.
Now the airport is undergoing a $45 million makeover. Jim Gill, CEO of the Gerald R. Ford Airport had nothing but praises to sing of Dick DeVos after his appointment. He believes that there is no one better to help the civilian council tackle tough problems in the aviation industry.
The Management Advisory Council comprises 13 members total from private and public transportation sectors. They will provide advice to the FAA on policies, regulations, spending, and future planning. Among the members, there are prominent former CEOs and policymakers who have worked in transportation for many years.
Dick DeVos has been the co-founder of the West Michigan Aviation Academy among other aviation pursuits. He has a single engine plane license to operate jets and helicopters as well. As an avid pilot, he has flown across the world and rubbed shoulders with many of the airline elite. His appointment was praised by Southwest’s CEO who has worked with DeVos in the past.
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