In the early 1990’s, the city of Grand Rapids was exploring the possibility of creating a sports and convention arena to the north of the downtown area. Dick DeVos was then working at his family’s company, Amway Corp. He was on the track to be CEO. When he heard about this idea, it did not sit well with him, and so he began a campaign to lobby against it.
DeVos was concerned that building this multipurpose sports arena would have a detrimental effect on Grand Rapids. His concern was that Grand Rapids would experience something on par to what was experienced when the Lions and the Pistons left Detroit in the 1970’s in connection with the construction of the Pontiac Silverdome. To Dick DeVos, this was a difficult lesson for the city to learn, and he did not want to see a repeat of it.
Because of the work that DeVos did fighting against the sports facility outside of the central business district, the Grand Action group was formed. This was a group of business leaders who pushed for the construction of many of the buildings that are credited with completely changing the skyline of Grand Rapids. In addition to changing the skyline of Grand Rapids, they also changed the trajectory of the city.
This drive to change the city they lived in and grew up around for the better is something that both Dick and his wife, Betsy, have been known for throughout their adult lives. They are mega-donors to the GOP. This has resulted in a number of changes that have affected laws on labor and on education.
An example of the work of Betsy DeVos, currently serving as education secretary for President Donald Trump, has done throughout her life includes the expansion of charter schools throughout Michigan. Dick DeVos pioneered laws that revolutionized the way work was seen in the state of Michigan. After a law that he supported was passed in 2012, Michigan went from being a state that was the birthplace of the union and the birthplace of organized labor to being a right to work state. This meant that union membership was no longer needed in order to get employment.
The influence of Betsy and Dick does not end in the realm of Republican politics. Over the course of 25 years, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has been reported to have given away over $138 million. This money has helped support the arts, churches, leadership programs, reform and education, and provide scholarships for private schools.
In 2006, their donation of $12.5 million led the way in the construction of a children’s hospital worth $103 million. The hospital was eventually named after Dick’s mother, Helen DeVos.
This hospital has allowed families who live in Michigan to be able to stay close to home while their children receive medical care. In times past, families would need to travel to Minnesota for the Mayo Clinic or to Chicago in order to receive care.
The commitment of Dick and Betsy DeVos to education is unquestionable. Be it their philanthropy, the schools they funded, or the work that Betsy DeVos is doing as education secretary, it is clear that this power couple is changing the world around them.
To learn more, visit http://dickdevos.com/news/.