For over twenty years, Dick DeVos, husband of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, former CEO of Amway Corp., and current CEO of the Windquest Group, has influenced the development of his hometown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Beginning in 1991, when he publicly lobbied against a proposed sports and convention arena to be situated north of downtown, he has promoted particular construction initiatives that have radically changed the Grand Rapids skyline. Learn more: http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/
Both DeVoses are heirs to family fortunes, which has allowed them to influence both institutions and policies for decades. Dick is the oldest son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, while Betsy is the daughter of Edgar Prince, who founded the Prince Corportation, and the sister of Erik Prince, who founded Blackwater USA. Both are natives of Michigan, and together they comprise one of the richest families in the state.
After the success of his arena campaign, Dick DeVos formed Grand Action with other business leaders. This group was the driving force behind the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Place Convention Center, the DeVos Performance Hall, the Grand Rapids City Market, and Michigan State University’s medical school. The collective impact of these projects has altered the Grand Rapids skyline and led to a reduction in suburban sprawl.
In addition to his construction projects, Dick DeVos has influenced labor policy in Michigan, most notably the 2012 law that converted the state to a right-to-work state, ending union membership as an employment requirement. He has worked with Betsy to expand charter schools, including founding an aviation charter school at Grand Rapids International Airport, and further bolstered the airport’s profile by wooing AirTran and Southwest to increase direct flights to major destinations. The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has given away over $100 million to a variety of causes, including leadership programs, health services, churches, and education policy initiatives. In 2006, the DeVoses made the leading donation towards a children’s hospital in the Spectrum Health System, whose corporate board is chaired by Dick.
The DeVoses are considered GOP “mega-donors,” which has allowed them to further influence policy and support conservative causes. Although Dick DeVos lost his gubernatorial campaign in 2006, in 2016 Betsy DeVos was appointed as U.S. Secretary of Education, and Dick was recently appointed to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Management Advisory Council.