Dick DeVos steers West Michigan away from Detroit-like fate

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Although Dick DeVos is not exactly a household name, many people throughout the country know him for his 2006 gubernatorial campaign in the state of Michigan. DeVos narrowly lost to then-incumbent governor Jennifer Granholm, marking both the effective start and the end of his political career. DeVos and his wife have also been involved in Republican politics on both the state and national level. Because of these political activities, those who do recognize the name of Dick DeVos throughout the country usually associate him with politics.


However, DeVos has only spent a tiny fraction of his career on the political scene. In fact, prior to his gubernatorial run, the Amway executive had virtually no personal political experience at all. The real politician in the family is DeVos’ wife, Betsy.


Where DeVos is well known and immensely respected is throughout Grand Rapids and the West Michigan area. As one of the area’s leading businessmen, DeVos has not only been responsible for creating and retaining tens of thousands of high-paying and fulfilling jobs throughout the West Michigan area, but he has also been instrumental in the city’s development over the last three decades.


It was in the late 1980s that DeVos formed the Grand Action Committee, a group that would turn out to be one of the decisive drivers of Grand Rapids’ subsequent economic boom. At the time, Grand Rapids was well on its way to suffering the fate of innumerable other Michigan Rust Belt cities. By the mid-1980s, areas like Flint, Detroit, Saginaw and Battle Creek, once industrial and manufacturing juggernauts at the heart of the U.S. auto industry, had fallen into sharp decline. Many of these cities had descended into general chaos and lawlessness, setting off a chain reaction of the most productive classes fleeing, their tax dollars going with them.


DeVos and other top business leaders saw the writing on the wall: If something wasn’t done, Grand Rapids would soon be a Hiroshima-like shell of its former self. It was under this shadow that the Grand Action Committee was formed, with DeVos personally playing the key role in bringing it about. Its mission was to create new sources of economic activity throughout the Downtown Grand Rapids area, clearing blighted neighborhoods and attracting investment through the creation of a strong economic core.


The committee’s plan slowly began to take form. Throughout the decade of the 90s, great amounts of money were spent by the area’s business leaders on bringing in world-class medical facilities and talent to the Medical Mile, a stretch of road on the city’s northeast side that currently hosts some of the world’s most cutting-edge medical services and facilities.


Another Grand Action project was the creation of the sprawling DeVos Place convention center, the second largest convention facility in the entire Midwest, behind McCormick Place in Chicago. DeVos personally invested large sums of his own money in bringing this project and others, such as the Van Andel Arena and the Downtown Campus of Grand Valley State University, to fruition.


Today, Grand Rapids is frequently ranked as one of the nicest places in the country in which to live and work. Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/DickDeVosII

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