Education Sector

Dick DeVos helps rebuild Grand Rapids, Michigan from the ground up

The 1980s were, in many ways, the beginning of the end of the United States’ reign as a true global manufacturing superpower. The decline of U.S. industry brought with it incalculable suffering for America’s working class, who once were known the world over for their high standard of living and financial security. By the end of the 1980s, however, many of the jobs that had once defined America as the real-world Worker’s Paradise, helping the capitalist system to win the ideological war versus communism, were gone forever.


Some cities throughout the country were able to nimbly refocus on other economic activities. Others were never heavily reliant on industry in the first place, allowing them to weather, unscathed, the economic storm wrought by mass plant closures. But for many towns in the state of Michigan, the manufacturing downturn of the 1980s marked the final nail in the municipal coffin.


Detroit was particularly hard hit. The city that had once been known as the Paris of the West would ultimately become the first major city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy. By 2013, when a federal judge approved the restructuring of all of the once-great city’s debt, more than half of Detroit real estate lay vacant or decimated and basic services, such as police patrols and garbage collection, had all but come to a halt.


Other impoverished Michigan towns, like Flint and Battle Creek, were hardly any better off. Flint made headlines in 2014 as the city’s water supply became too contaminated for its residents to drink or use for any household purposes. This was again a result of decades of slow civic decay, ultimately resulting in the presence of third-world cities right in the heart of the richest nation on Earth.


But in Grand Rapids, a city in West Michigan that is located a half hour from the shoreline of Lake Michigan, something radically different took place. Dick DeVos, one of the area’s most prominent business leaders, convened a group of the city’s best minds in the early 1990s. Known as the Grand Action Committee, the group was determined not to let the same fate occur to Grand Rapids that had befallen towns like Detroit and Flint.


Leading the way, DeVos personally invested tens of millions of his own fortune to jumpstart the development of some of the most impressive projects that the Downtown area had ever seen. One of the projects that his initiatives were able to kick off was the DeVos Place Convention Center. As one of the largest facilities of its kind in the Midwestern U.S., the DeVos Place was a key factor in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic activity to the Grand Rapids area. As a result of the influx of trade shows and other conventions hosted by the center, area hotels and restaurants have experienced a dramatic uptick in business that has lasted more than two decades and shows no sign of abatement.


As someone who believed in Grand Rapids even when it was down and out, Dick DeVos has personally made a nearly incalculable difference in the city’s lasting prosperity.


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Education Sector

Betsy DeVos and the Future of Education

Betsy DeVos is very experienced and knowledgeable about what she does. She has had years of practice and hard work. She began her career as a successful businesswoman and political activism over 30 years ago while a student at Calvin College. In the early 80s, she married billionaire businessman, Dick DeVos. Along with her husband, in 1989 Betsy co-founded and continues to chair the Windquest Group, a company that invests in technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. She is also an extremely active philanthropist, often involved in non-profit projects. Most of such work is done as chair of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, but she continues to be an integral member of boards of charities throughout the nation. Read more about their foundation at

Since the beginning, Betsy’s greatest area of political interest has been education, especially as concerns school choice. School choice is her biggest concentration as chair of the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice. A recent interview with Philanthropy Roundtable revealed some of her educational ideals. Betsy was clear on the fact that she fully believes she has made progress in her 30-plus years of work and that she is therefore extremely optimistic about the future.

She says her pet project, the educational-choice movement is definitely picking up momentum, with 40,000 added to nationwide educational-choice programs in the past year alone. Now Betsy has an even higher platform of educational activism as Education Secretary under Donald Trump. One of her many jobs in this position is overseeing the $1.3 trillion debt program. Although School Choice is her biggest educational concern, she is also deeply concerned with other educational matters such as the ever increasing massive national student debt.

Betsy DeVos is currently hard at work planning and deploying a strategy to greatly downsize this debt. The will greatly help low-income students with year-round Pell Grants. This new year-round Pell Grant plan commenced on July 1. Betsy’s system makes everything easier and simpler by putting everyone on one plan instead of the former multiple-plan system. More importantly, her plan will save everyone a lot of money. She estimates that her plan will enable to save around $130 million in five years. Read more about her philanthropy at MLive.