Dick DeVos is perhaps best known as the son of Rich DeVos, the billionaire co-founder of Amway. But DeVos has also had a long and successful career in his own right. He’s headed various companies, including Amway, and has long been one of Michigan’s most prominent philanthropists.
Recently, DeVos made the decision to reveal all of the details of his charitable giving. This was largely prompted by his wife, Betsy DeVos, being vetted by Congress in her appointment to secretary of education. This has revealed a phenomenal amount of charitable giving, which totals well over $139 million and 2015 alone.
But the extent of DeVos’ community-based work extends far beyond the mere donation of money. For years, DeVos has been the driving force behind the revitalization of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is the founder of Grand Action Group, an organization of West Michigan’s top business leaders, who came together in the late 80s to do something about the rapidly decaying urban center of Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids was facing many of the stark problems that other large cities in Michigan and across the area of the Midwest known as the rust belt had been experiencing since at least the late ‘60s. Urban decay, blight, homelessness and widespread flight of businesses and residents had plagued the downtown Grand Rapids area for over 20 years. DeVos thought that something could be done.
He convoked the Grand Action Group and set about formulating a plan to transform the downtown Grand Rapids area into Michigan’s most sought-after place of urban residence. One of the first things that DeVos did was to begin attracting the nation’s top medical talent to the area known as the medical mile. This is an approximately mile-long stretch, located right in the heart of downtown, which has become one of the nation’s foremost centers of medical research and treatment for various diseases. The area includes many university branches as well as four separate major hospital campuses. The nautical mile has proven to be a billion-dollar economic engine and a major boon to the downtown Grand Rapids area.
Another major source of economic growth has been the DeVos Place Convention Center. This is a hundred-million-dollar convention center that has been in almost constant use since its opening in 2003.