Philanthropy

The Historic Influence of Dick DeVos on the Future of Grand Rapids

Dick DeVos was just a 20-year-old college student when the Silverdome opened on 199 acres in Pontiac, Michigan, in 1975. But the grim fate of the once state-of-the-art NFL stadium would never be lost on the future CEO of the Amway Corporation.

 

When the Detroit Lions opted to leave the city and abandon the facility, the city fathers were left with a white elephant of epic proportions. The tale of the deterioration and eventual demolition of the Silverdome with explosives became a metaphor for everything that could go wrong with a well-meaning community development project.

 

That’s why, in 1991, when movers and shakers proposed multipurpose sports and convention arena for downtown Grand Rapids, Dick DeVos picked up the telephone and started making some calls. He was dead set against the plan. The memory of the Silverdome saga was not lost on him. The actions of DeVos caused city planners and private developers to reconsider. Today, they are glad they did.

 

Instead, DeVos spearheaded a nuanced, balanced and strategic civic development agenda. He formed a group that came to be known as Grand Action. This was a consortium of business leaders who cobbled together the plans for such facilities as the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Grand Rapids City Market and the DeVos Performance Hall.

 

Collectively, these facilities transformed the skyline of downtown Grand Rapids. It ushered in a new era of economic development and national recognition for Michigan’s second-largest city.

 

These projects are just one example of the historic influence that one man, Dick DeVos, has exerted in the Wolverine State. DeVos also used his clout to revitalize the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

 

Along with the multiple millions of dollars in philanthropic gifts DeVos and his wife, Betsy DeVos, have distributed throughout the state, the legacy of the DeVos family is one without equal in this key Upper Midwest state.