Strategic Planner Dick Devos

Urban strategist Dick DeVos formed Grand Action, a group of Michigan businessmen who changed the Grand Rapids skyline and the direction of the city. He did not lose his city to urban sprawl. DeVos called Air Trans Airways and convinced them to fly nonstop to Orlando, Florida, from the Grand Rapids’ Gerald R. Ford International Airport. His success led to $45 million in improvements to the Grand Rapid’s airport: new security and check-in procedures, new business centers, and the expansion of local restaurants.

 

Southwest Airlines

 

Southwest bought AirTran Airways a few months later and negotiations began again. Southwest previously refused Dick’s invitation to locate a transportation hub in west Michigan. DeVos managed to keep Southwest Airlines in his hometown airport by demonstrating Air Trans’ success. Southwest expanded the nonstop flights between Grand Rapids and Orlando, Florida, and added nonstop flights to the Baltimore Washington International Airport in Baltimore, Maryland. Southwest Airlines also added nonstop flights from Michigan to Denver, Colorado, and St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Forbes Magazine

 

Forbes Magazine voted Dick and Betsy DeVos 26th among America’s Top Givers in 2016. With inherited family money, Dick and Betsy DeVos spent most of their lives changing institutions and policies. As GOP mega-donors, they’ve influenced state laws and improved the standard of living in Grand Rapids. In 2012, Dick DeVos successfully converted Michigan to a right-to-work state. Michigan employees are now free to choose whether they want to belong to a labor union. Dick and Betsy DeVos donated $12.5 million for the construction of the $103 million DeVos children’s hospital named for Dick’s mother Helen. Michigan families no longer have to drive to the Mayo Clinic for specialized pediatric medical care.

 

West Michigan Aviation Academy

 

With his wife Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Dick DeVos opened an aviation charter school, West Michigan Aviation Academy, in 2010. He donated the school’s first airplane and lent $3 million in the form of no interest loans to the school for flight simulators and other equipment. The aviation charter school encourages minority and low income children to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The nonprofit charter school flourished into a 600-student public school on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Placement in the West Michigan Aviation Academy is determined by public lottery because applications always exceed the number of openings. The tuition-free public school receives $7,500 per child from the state of Michigan every year, and the DeVos Family Foundation has contributed more than $7 million to the school.

 

FAA Oversight

 

On September 28, 2017, Dick DeVos was appointed to the FAA’s Management Advisory Council by the United States Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. The oversight board advises senior FAA officials on strategic planning, policy and decision making, spending, and regulatory procedures. His three-year appointment is strictly voluntary, and he’ll remain a pilot and board member of his aviation charter school.

 

Gerald R. Ford International Airport

 

“Dick will be a tremendous asset to the FAA Management Advisory Council. [His] deep roots in aviation as a pilot … [made him] an outstanding partner with our airport. He’ll bring strong leadership skills and industry insight to the FAA” according to Jim Gill, CEO of Ford International Airport.

Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos and her family have been very influential in the education world. Before she became Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos was a strong advocate for school choice. She’s become very philanthropic active within the educational community. She and her husband are the leaders of the Windquest Group, which is a group that invests in new technology, clean energy and manufacturing. The DeVos family foundation has risen to the ranks of the Koch Foundation, becoming one of the top conservative contributors over the last few decades. Some of the foundation’s money has gone to a number of conservative leaning organizations and groups.

 

Betsy DeVos’ influence can be felt within Michigan as well as the United States. Betsy was politically driven during her time in Michigan and the foundation gave more than $44 million worth of political donations. Prior to joining the Trump administration, Betsy and Dick DeVos chaired the DeVos Family Foundation. The family’s foundation supports two Christian schools and helps fund the Education Freedom Fund. The EFF gives scholarships to low income children so they can afford private schools. DeVos and the foundation also helped fund various organizations including the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Betsy DeVos also once chaired the Michigan Republican Party.

 

Betsy DeVos previously served as chair of the American Federation for Children. DeVos was also part of the think tank established by Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Betsy DeVos also funds healthcare and different art programs. DeVos financially supports the pediatric oncology at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The DeVos has given nearly $750,000 to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy and even authorized another $1 million for future funding. DeVos has contributed $10,000 to the Institute for Justice, which funds school choice lawsuits all over the country. DeVos Foundation contributes to several colleges and universities as well as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As part of their love of the arts, the foundation holds the ArtPrize which is an art competition that takes place in Grand Rapids each year. The DeVos family established their foundation more than 17 years ago. Their driven by building a stronger community through local community projects.

 

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