Why Community Interest is at the Heart of Dick DeVos’ Push for Reforms

Entrepreneur and Business Executive Dick DeVos has an impeccable record of championing causes that affect the community. In 1991, Dick DeVos fought against a plan to construct a multi-purpose sports and convention center, north of downtown Grand Rapids. In an exclusive report published on Crain’s Detroit Business, Dick said the building of the convention would negatively impact the downtown in the same measure the construction of the Palace of Auburn and Pontiac Silverdome did to Detroit when the Pistons and Lions decided to leave. At the time of the campaign, DeVos was the CEO of the family owned business, Amyway Corp. The campaign by Devos against the Grand Rapids development led to the formation of a lobby group by business owners in the area.

 

The Grand Action Group has in the past supported projects seen as transformative and beneficial to the locals, such as the DeVos Place Convention Center, Medical School at Michigan University, the DeVos Performance Hall and the Van Andel Arena. Outside the confines of business, Dick DeVos and wife, Betsy DeVos are devoted conservatives and philanthropist. Their support for the GOP as mega donors is legendary, a fact that has seen them influence the direction of local politics as well as inform policy decisions. Between 1989 and 2015, Dick and Betsy offered more than $138 million to various programs through the Dick and Betsy Family Foundation. The support went to support arts and cultural programs, policy initiatives, churches and health and human services.

 

The policy directives supported by the donations, mostly centered on private school scholarship programs and education reforms. The couple also contributed towards the construction of $100 million Helen DeVos children’s hospital in the Spectrum Health system. The development saw the opening of a day center that allow parents living nearby to leave their kids behind without having to relocate to other specialized health care centers. According to Betsy, their education advocacy and philanthropy initiatives are designed to ensure children from poor families receive the same benefits as those enjoyed by well to do families. It is in the same spirit that Dick DeVos established an aviation charter high school at the local Grand Rapids International Airport.

 

According to a report appearing on US News, in just a few years of its existence, the not-for-profit charter school’s population has grown from less than 100 to 600 across 7 counties. The academy welcomes students from different backgrounds, faiths and color. In 2016, a total of 28% of students were either Hispanic or Black. In terms of performance, the SAT scores for juniors in the spring of 2017 stood at an impressive 1072. The career classes taken by students here include flight lessons, engineering, aerospace engineering, robotic systems and computer science. Besides Betsy DeVos pushing for the expansion of the charter school, her impeccable record of fighting for the improvement of education is touted as the main reason President Donald Trump appointed her the US Secretary of Education.

 

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