Grand Rapids has planned to build a multi-purpose sports arena and convention center north of the downtown Grand Rapids area since 1991. Dick DeVos, the CEO of Amway Corp from 1993 to 2002, led his company to riches and the prosperity of the American Dream. DeVos worried the convention center might become a detriment like the Pontiac Silverdome, so he grabbed the phone and began to lobby against it. DeVos continued in saying, “We did not forget the lesson of the Pontiac Silverdome.”
Some of the driving forces came from powerful business leaders who constructed places like the Van Andel Arena, the Grand Rapid City Market, Michigan State University’s medical school and the DeVos Performance Hall. Each of these new buildings have changed the Grand Rapids skyline. The heirs of two big family fortunes, both Betsy and Dick DeVos have spent much of their adult lives attempting to change policies and institutions within the United States. In fact, they have become GOP mega-donors, and their political influence has helped to shape state laws that have positively affected labor and education.
Betsy DeVos successfully pushed for the expansion of charter schools because she wants kids to see the possibilities in everyday life. The goal is to slip them a high-quality education. Meanwhile, Dick DeVos engineered a law from 2012 that converted Michigan from a place where you had the organized labor to a right-to-work state. In addition, you no longer have to worry about membership like you may have in the past. Even outside the Republican politics and conservative causes, DeVos continues to stretch their influence beyond what they’re known for.
We have seen some excellent political sponsorship, and in fact, from 1989 to 2015, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has given as much as $138.7 million in leadership programs. They have also sponsored, the arts and culture, churches, health and human services and policy initiatives based on education reform.
The pair has always played a big role in Grand Rapids. In fact, they gave the leading donation of $12.5 million in 2006 to help construct the children’s hospital. With the children’s hospital, families can remain at home, and parents don’t have to take time away from work to drive to Ann Arbor or the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. The biggest initiative has been education reform. Their goal has always remained the same: children from the poorer families have an equal opportunity that their children had.
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