Dick DeVos is one of the most prominent residents of the state of Michigan. As the husband of current education secretary Betsy DeVos, he is also increasingly known on the national stage. His 2006 run for the governorship of Michigan cemented his reputation for being a Republican politician. But throughout his home state of Michigan, DeVos is known for far more than merely his brief foray into the political world.
As one of the area’s leading philanthropists, DeVos has also gained a reputation for being one of the most magnanimous donors to a wide range of causes. But his most important contribution has probably come in the form of his actions to help save his hometown from a fate similar to that of other Michigan rustbelt towns, like Detroit and Flint.
Towards the end of the 1980s, DeVos’ hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was beginning to show many of the same signs of decline that had been witnesses a decade before in places like Detroit and Flint. The city’s urban center had fallen into a state of serious disrepair and vacancy. Entire blocks of once-thriving industrial buildings stood empty. And the blight was beginning to attract the wrong kind of crowd, which, in turn, was causing the productive classes to flee. The process of urban decay was well underway.
DeVos convened a group of some of the top local businessmen. He recognized that decisive action needed to be taken in order to prevent Grand Rapids from passing the point of no return from which no former industrial city seems to be able to recover.
The group that he got together was dubbed the Grand Action Committee. It had one goal: to foment enough investment that the city of Grand Rapids would be revitalized and reach a critical threshold of economic prosperity. This would cause a virtuous cycle where people and capital would flock to the city to be part of a growing and thriving populace.
The Grand Action Committee was a round success. Today, Grand Rapids is often ranked among the top cities in the country in which to live, play and work. It also has the impressive distinction of being one of the few places throughout the entire Midwest that has been experienced an increasing population year-over-year for the last decade plus. And Dick DeVos was one of the key figures to have brought this salubrious change about.
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