Dick DeVos instrumental in creating booming Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids, Michigan has been able to largely escape the fate of many Midwest cities. The area was long heavily reliant on manufacturing, especially in the auto industry. But unlike places such as Detroit, Flint and Battle Creek, Grand Rapids was able to escape the long slide into urban decay that so many other cities throughout Michigan and the Midwest succumbed to.


This was not a mere accident of history. Dick DeVos, one of the area’s top business leaders, was one of the people responsible for saving the economy of the Grand Rapids area at a time when it was most vulnerable.


Throughout the 1980s, Downtown Grand Rapids began suffering the same large-scale abandonment by the productive classes that was being experienced in cities like Detroit and Flint. By the late 1980s, the city was dealing with a surge of vacant real estate, increasing crime and falling property values across many neighborhoods. The trend was not looking good.


DeVos was acutely aware of what had happened in places like Detroit, where a vicious cycle of increasing crime led to the flight of productive citizens from the city. That led to plummeting real estate prices, which, in turn, led to evaporation of the city’s tax base. The resulting shortage of funds led to failing schools and reduced city services, which led to even more flight of the productive classes. This was the dynamic that played out in city after city across Michigan and the Midwest. DeVos knew that something had to be done, or a similar fate would certainly befall Grand Rapids.


He got together with some of the best local business minds and formed the Grand Action Committee, a group dedicated to generating strategic investment in the Downtown Grand Rapids area. Over the course of the 1990s, the Grand Action Committee sprang into action, developing billions of dollars in new projects that would eventually provide the critical mass needed to get the area’s economy growing.


The Grand Action Committee was behind the development of the so-called Medical Mile, a mile-long stretch of Michigan Ave that now features some of the most advanced medical facilities anywhere in the country. This medical infrastructure has attracted some of the top talent in the world, making Grand Rapids a center of innovation for a number of subdisciplines within medicine. The area has attracted some of the top heart surgeons, pediatric doctors and childhood cancer specialists in the world. It also employs more people with medical degrees than anywhere else in the state of Michigan.


DeVos was personally responsible for the development of the DeVos Place convention center. The sprawling complex is the second-largest of its kind in the Midwest, being just a bit smaller than McCormick Place in Chicago. The DeVos Place convention center has attracted billions of dollars in economic activity to the Downtown area, fueling massive growth in area nightlife venues, hotels and transportation firms.


DeVos has been personally involved on too many additional projects to even begin to list. His efforts are now largely credited with saving Grand Rapids. Learn more: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2017/10/the_billionaire_that_put_grand.html

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