For over two decades, DeVos has been working with the Grand Rapids airport. He has seen it grow and change over the years with the help of airlines who have seen the vision of a better business airport. While there were many plans for Grand Rapids back in the 1990s, DeVos worked hard to see that his city had successful ideas put in place. He had already been through what happened in Detroit with the Pontiac SilverDome and the death of the downtown. He wanted to ensure that Grand Rapids future would be bright.
He started working with all of the business leaders in town, wanting to help their businesses grow and build in the downtown center. There were a lot of plans at the time to build up this area, but there were other plans that would have placed a sports arena and convention center away from the downtown center. DeVos fought hard against this. He had seen what could happen when the downtown business district wasn’t supported.
Instead, DeVos worked with his own foundation to support the downtown businesses. He helped build the DeVos Place Convention Center, DeVos Performance Hall, and Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids. It was at this time that DeVos turned his sights to the airport, wanting to see how all parts could coincide to place Grand Rapids on the map. It was true that the city was already growing bigger by the time he started to work with the airport.
There were multiple new businesses, and it seemed as if the city was thriving. However, the airport had remained small and stagnant, which was something that DeVos wanted to change. He saw that there were numerous opportunities for the airport if they could get more destinations available to the public. This would mean changing the focus of the airport from being more of an executive, specialized airport to a much larger international airport.
The first thing that they did was change the destinations. There were four new flights added to Orlando, Las Vegas, St. Louis, and Denver. These were popular convention centers that DeVos knew could help get Grand Rapids on the circuit as well. He started to attract business travelers almost immediately, and soon, DeVos’ hometown was flourishing. The airport also brought in so much revenue that it was able to put up $45 million for a renovation that was completed in 2018. The new renovations include a business traveler center, food court upgrades, and new technology throughout the airport.
It’s decisions like these that can help the FAA with their future growth plans. Already, the FAA has planned to renovate the GSO Tower, putting up an estimated $40 million in budget to do so.
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