Going back to the early 1990s in Michigan, there were a lot of economic problems facing local business owners. Many jobs were removed because of the plants and factories leaving the state. In fact, Detroit suffered a severe depression that it is still recovering from today. At the time, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot that business leaders could do to offset these issues. So why didn’t western Michigan have the same problems as Detroit and other areas in northern Michigan?
The answer is linked back to the DeVos family. If you know anything about business in America, then you probably know the DeVos name. Richard DeVos is the co-founder of Amway, which has been a profitable, Fortune 500 company since the 1980s. His son Dick DeVos also led record-breaking sales at the company throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. However, it was 1991 that DeVos would return to Grand Rapids and find his hometown was dying economically. He decided to step in and help with city planning to bring back commerce and businesses to the downtown area.
He started by working with the business leaders in the area already. He wanted to build up the central area of downtown, but there were many plans for sports arenas and convention centers that were placed outside of the city center. DeVos didn’t want to do that. He had witnessed what had happened in Detroit with the Pontiac SilverDome and wanted to avoid pushing traffic outside of the main business district.
Together with these business leaders in western Michigan, DeVos created several new buildings around the business district. This would include the DeVos Place Convention Center, Andel Arena, and DeVos Performance Hall. All of these would bring in traffic and new commerce to the downtown area of Grand Rapids. However, DeVos wanted to take it a step further and truly expand Grand Rapids into a metropolis. To do that, he needed to work with the local airport.
Due to his work with the local airport, DeVos would go on to put Grand Rapids on the map, bringing in 3.26 million passengers to the area in 2018 alone. His work with the airport made him a legend and got him appointed to the Management Advisory Council for the FAA in 2017. He would now be working with transportation officials to help renovate other airports across the country, too. DeVos will continue to meet with the council for the next year.
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