Most people know Dick Devos for his history with Amway and sports arenas, but Devos is much more than that. His business acumen blends into several markets and industries, but his passion for many years has been in aviation. In fact, Devos began working within his hometown of Grand Rapids to improve their local airport, turning it into a larger-than-life international airport in less than a decade.


While the Gerald R. Ford International Airport has been around since the early 1900s. It wasn’t until 1999 that the airport started to pick up in business and become more than a parking ground for the elite’s jets and helicopters. Devos himself is a pilot and had been using the airport for many years. He started to build a relationship with the CEO by talking to airlines at the airport and seeing if they wanted to expand their offerings.


He first approached the CEO of Air Tran Airways in the early 2000s. He proposed that the airlines expand their offerings at the airport, promising new growth. Air Tran did open up four new terminals that led to the biggest increase in new flights and business travelers. Years later, the move that opened up travel for new visitors would expand even more. In fact, the airport will complete a $45 million renovation project by the end of 2018.


Why does all of this matter?


Dick Devos is now headed to Washington to work with the FAA. Devos has been making his bid to join politics since the early 2000s. He ran for governor in Michigan in 2006, and even though he did lose, his wife Betsy Devos is now the US Education Secretary. While his beliefs are comparable to his wife, he has focused much of his attention on aviation and improving airline business in the US market.


He has worked with Southwest, Air Tran Airways, the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and other business leaders in Grand Rapids who wanted to see the city grow rapidly. That has now come to fruition as Grand Rapids was recently named one of the best places to live in Michigan.


Devos will be meeting with the FAA every quarter. The new Management Advisory Council is a civilian board made up of former transportation authorities and airline executives. They will provide their advice to the FAA as it goes through changes over the next few years in an effort to boost the industry that has been involved in new competition within foreign markets.


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