November 14, 2018

Dick Devos Offers Help to FAA’s New Advisory Council

Did you know that Betsy Devos’ husband is now in Washington as well? The 11th US Secretary of Education has been campaigning for education reform across the country, and her husband Dick Devos has now joined the political threshold after his nomination to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council. While the council doesn’t have any type of power to change regulations, it does advise the FAA on policies, regulations, future growth, budgets, and strategies.


The FAA has been challenged by President Trump who stated during his presidential campaign that he thought America’s aviation industry was falling behind, particularly with airports. Devos has some experience with turning an airport around, as you only have to look at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Devos’ hometown to see what he is capable of. For one, he knows how to make connections and use those connections to affect great change.


In the 1990s, Devos was coming off a stint as the Vice President at Amway. He had just led recordbreaking sales in international markets for the time that he was there, and he wanted to do something that was going to help his hometown. He started to look at city planning with business leaders under the committee Grand Action. Together, they would create the Devos Performance Hall, Devos Place Convention Center, Andel Arena, and many other community work projects.


All of this was to bring back the focus and commerce to downtown Grand Rapids. The plan worked, but Devos had something bigger in mind. He wanted a way to bring in more business travelers to the city. He started working with the CEO of the local airport.


In 1999, the Grand Rapids airport made a name change and re-launched under Gerald R. Ford International Airport. This change prompted a lot of people to wonder what was in store for the airport, as it had been around since 1900s and had always been a rather small airport with very little destinations.


Devos set out to change all of that, and he did so with just one phone call. He called up the CEO of Air Tran Airways and asked if he would be willing to open up new destinations. The CEO agreed and opened up St. Louis, Denver, Orlando, and Vegas. These destinations were apart of a business travel and conference strategy that Devos was keen to bring to Grand Rapids.


Devos’ plan worked. In just over a decade, the airport had completely turned around and become profitable, even requiring some updates to the airport to make it more modern. The $45 million renovation will be completed in 2018 and features a new business traveler’s center as well as food court upgrades.


Devos will continue to meet with the council throughout 2019. The council meets once every quarter to discuss budgets, policies, regulation updates, budget changes, and much more.


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