Michigan is known for its famous state college system which includes Michigan State University, the eight largest university by campus size in the United States. The state is also home to the historical city of Detroit, which was one of the primary industrial centers of the country during the middle of the last century.
Michigan’s focus on its urban centers and educational system has not been easy, and probably would not have been possible without the help of business and community leaders like Dick and Betsy Devos of the Dick and Betsy Devos Family Foundation. These days, his wife has taken the spotlight after she was appointed by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the senate to be the US Secretary of Education.
Her appointment as the Secretary of Education is due, in part, to the decades of advocacy and political activism shared by the couple. But while Betsy Devos has focused on education and educational reform, Dick Devos has been a leading advocate of business friendly urban development.
Dick Devos’ interest in urban development matured in 1991 when the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, announced their plans to construct a multi-purpose convention center and sports arena in the northern part of the city’s downtown area.
Devos recalled a similar situation in the 1970s when the city constructed the Pontiac Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills after the departure of the Detroit Lions and Pistons from the city. About the negative impacts of the Silverdome stadium, he said that, ”[the] lesson was not lost on us,” and was thus spurred to action in order to prevent history from repeating itself.
Having joined as a regular member of the Health Care Foundation Board of Trustees in the prior year, Dick Devos was already busy as an important philanthropic business leader of the state, and while he would eventually go on to run for Governor of the state in 2006, at this time he was not actually a politician and so held little actual political power.
Not to be deterred, Devos united the business community of downtown Grand Rapids in opposition to the proposed new convention center by creating the Grand Vision and Grand Action Committee s, the latter of which still exists today.
Since their successful campaign to block the proposed Grand Rapids convention center, the committee has proven itself to be a group for positive change by advocating for the construction of other major building projects such as the Devos Place Convention Center, the famous Devos Performance Hall, Michigan State Universities School of Medicine, the Van Adel Arena, and even the Grand Rapids City Market.
Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/about to learn more.