Dick Devos puts Grand Rapids on the map

When Dick Devos called the CEO of AirTran Airways, he probably wasn’t expecting the answer that he got, or maybe he did. The reason that Devos has excelled in business is because of his ability to make connections with other leaders. In the case of this CEO, AirTran would open four new locations at the Grand Rapids airport location just because Devos asked. He had a very simple plan. He wanted to put the small airport on the map and hopefully grow it as much as possible.


Over the past two decades, the airport has thrived, bringing in a record-breaking 3.26 million passengers in 2018, which set a new high for the airport. While it had been open since the early 1900s, it wasn’t until now that the airport was finally bringing in thousands of passengers per day, and much of this success was due to the actions taken by Devos.


Devos has always worked hard to help with his hometown. He saw the devastation in Detroit and wanted to make sure that Grand Rapids became a metropolis in West Michigan. He changed the face of downtown with business leaders, creating new areas of entertainment and cultural arts, including the Devos Performance Hall and Devos Place Convention Center.


With the convention center in place, Devos knew that he would be able to bring in business travelers who were looking for a new conference destination. West Michigan was going to be that destination now.


Devos was recently tapped by the Federal Aviation Administration to assist with their Management Advisory Council. While the council is comprised of 13 members from aviation and transportation backgrounds, Devos is the only pure business leader who has been working in aviation as a partner, rather than as an executive airline owner or authority in transportation. His experience comes from growing the Grand Rapids airport now known as Gerald R. Ford International Airport.


His wife is the 11th US Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. Together, the two have become close to the Republican Party. She served as the Chairman of the party for Michigan before taking on her new role. They have also supported several educational charities, including the founding of their own charter school. The pilot training school helps students learn about flight operations and becoming a pilot on the grounds of the Grand Rapids airport location.


Devos will continue to work with the educational leaders in his hometown as well as the business leaders. The airport just recently went through a new renovation, which is another reason that the FAA is talking to Devos. They want to know how they could afford to renovate and expand an entire airport so quickly. Devos has been very helpful with the latest aviation projects from the FAA.


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