In 1991 when Dick DeVos heard of a plan to open a multi-purpose sports and convention arena in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, he immediately began to lobby against the proposal. At the time, DeVos was in the process of becoming CEO of his family’s business the Amway Corporation.
When DeVos heard the news of the new convention arena, he was worried that it would be detrimental to Grand Rapids. He used the construction of the Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit as an example of how destructive it can be when a sports team like the Pistons or Lions leaves.
This opposition to the building of a convention arena led to the formation of Grand Action. This group consisting of local business leaders was the driving force behind the construction of a variety of facilities in Grand Rapids. These facilities are credited with improving the Grand Rapids skyline while staunching the suburban sprawl.
This opposition from DeVos is just one example of how he has spent his life trying to change policies and institutions. His wife, Betsy DeVos, joins him in being a GOP mega-donor. Their donations have helped them influence significant changes to state laws. These state laws primarily dealt with education and labor state laws.
Betsy DeVos used her influence to further the expansion of charter schools around the state. Dick DeVos was focused more on the labor laws. In 2012, he was a central factor in Michigan changing from an organized labor state to a right to work state. Politics is only one area where the DeVos influence was present.
Through their family fund, Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, they have supported a variety of leadership programs, churches, arts and culture, and other education reform policies. The largest donation went towards building a children’s hospital named after Dick’s mother, Helen DeVos.
Another major initiative the DeVos couple has backed is education reform. One way they have supported educational reform is by establishing an aviation charter high school located at the Grand Rapids International Airport.
Over the years, Betsy DeVos has stated that their educational goals are ensuring low-income children have the same opportunities as their children. Public opinion did not always agree with this philosophy. For example, in 2000, the voters in Michigan prohibited the passing of a law that would create a voucher system paid for by taxes. This defeat eventually led the DeVos to expand the voucher system to twenty-four states.
To learn more, visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/.