For the most part, the DeVos Family Foundation is relatively well known for its charitable giving. However, many don’t realize how far this giving goes. Over $139 million has been donated to education, healthcare organizations, culture and arts programs, as well as medical schools. While most of the giving has been in Michigan, there have been some donations to charities for global causes as well.
Dick and Betsy DeVos have been behind this foundation’s promise from the very beginning. Dick DeVos is, of course, the son of Richard DeVos, who founded Amway. He has served as the company’s CEO and President in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but now he is the founder of his own company, The Windquest Group. TWG is a private equity firm that helps businesses that want to make the world a better place. This includes organizations like Boxed Water.
In the past year, DeVos has gotten more political. His wife, Betsy DeVos, just became the 11th US Secretary of Education after a long campaign for educational choice. He now joins her in Washington via the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA formed a Management Advisory Council last year to help with some of its upcoming changes to policies and regulations. Many wondered at the time of DeVos’ appointment, how does he fit into the picture? DeVos doesn’t own any airlines nor has he ever been a transportation authority.
However, DeVos does have an aviation background. For one, he has been a pilot since he was young, and he is the co-founder of a pilot training school in Grand Rapids. He is also the only reason that the Gerald R. Ford International Airport still exists today. Not only does it exist, but it’s doing very well.
The airport had fallen on hard times in the 1990s. Even after a re-launch in 1999, the airport wasn’t able to bring in ticket sales. It was just too small and unknown. DeVos changed all of that with one phone call to the CEO of AirTran Airways. At the time, the airline owned several terminals at the airport and DeVos wanted to know if the company would be willing to add new destinations. He had a few in mind, specifically.
The CEO agreed, and in a few month’s time, there were four new destinations, including Orlando, Vegas, St. Louis, and Denver. The strategy wasn’t clear at first, but it began to take hold. DeVos wanted to build Grand Rapids as another business conference location and capture that business traveler market. After a couple of decades ,the airport did so well that it went through a $45 million expansion that completed in 2018.
Now that DeVos is working with the FAA, his appointment has been praised by several in the aviation industry, including the CEO of Southwest Airlines, who also worked with DeVos through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport project.
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