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CWD and the West MI Power Structure: Part II

April 17, 2017

Last month we posted an article about the West Michigan Power Structure that did not specifically involve the DeVos Family. We looked at people like Peter Seechia, John Kennedy, Michael Jandernoa and Mark Murray.

In Part II of our look at the West Michigan Power Structure we look at three men who make up CWD Real Estate Investment – Sam Cummings, Scott Wierda and Dan DeVos.

CWD was in the news last Thursday, after the Grand Rapids City Commission voted unanimously to approve $2.3 million in reimbursements through brownfield funding for a new hotel project. In addition, the Downtown Development Authority awarded CWD an additional $895,000 in tax abatements this past February

According to the MLive story, the new hotel will be run by the Amway Hotel Corp. This should come as no surprise, considering that Dan DeVos is one of the three men running CWD, but also because of the relationship the company has with other DeVos family members and their role in the West Michigan Power Structure in general.

Sam Cummings, Scott Wierda and Dan DeVos all were involved in business and investment before CWD was created. Cummings has previously been involved in Second Story Properties, Wierda was a co-owner of Jade Pig Ventures and Dan DeVos is the CEO of DP Fox Ventures. CWD was founded in 2008 and since then has amassed a significant amount of real estate property throughout West Michigan. According to the CWD website, they own more than 3 million square feet or retail and urban office real estate in the area.

Funding Republican Priorities

Another aspect of the CWD trio is their funding of GOP candidates and priorities. Wierda and Cummings have spent less money than DeVos on political contributions, but it is significant funding non the less. 

Dan DeVos has contributed several hundred thousand dollars in recent years to GOP candidates and to the party itself. Such contributions from the three men are not just ideological, they are strategic in terms of how it benefits their growth as a real estate investment company.

Interlocking systems of power and influence

Cummings, Wierda and DeVos are also deeply connected to organizations, sitting on boards or committees in order to use their financial clout to influence local politics and culture.

Sam Cummings has been involved in the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, the Michigan Association of Realtors, currently sits on the Aquinas College Foundation Board, is a GVSU Foundation Trustee, was a Trustee at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, a former board member of The Right Place Inc and former Grand Rapids Art Museum Foundation Trustee. Cummings was also instrumental in the failed Grand Prix races in downtown GR back in 1996. 

Scott Wierda is also involved in the Econ Club of Grand Rapids, the Michigan Association of Realtors, is a vice-chair of the Michigan State Housing Authority, sits on the GVSU Foundation board of Trustees and used to be a Trustee of the Grand Rapids Art Museum Foundation. 

Dan DeVos sits on the boards of organizations that differ from both Cummings and Wierda. DeVos is on the board of the Econ Club of Grand Rapids, Family Outreach Center, Hope Network, Norwood University, the West Michigan Sports Commission, the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation and the Grand Rapids Youth Foundation. 

ArtPrize and CWD

Lastly, it is worth looking at the relationship that CWD has with the Rick DeVos-led project ArtPrize.

CWD is a major sponsor of ArtPrize and has been for years. The motivation for supporting ArtPrize should be evident, since their downtown properties stand to make a ton of money from patrons and venue fees. CWD has properties in prime locations throughout downtown Grand Rapids, which provides the company with a constant revenue stream during ArtPrize and lots of exposure and all the free PR that comes with the annual art spectacle.

In the second year of ArtPrize, Sam Cummings was quoted as saying:

Our long-term goal is really to import capital – intellectual capital, and ultimately real capital. And this (ArtPrize) is certainly an extraordinary tool.”

One last connection between CWD and ArtPrize, is the fact that Scott Wierda’s wife, Rebecca Wierda, sits on the ArtPrize board.

All of these connections, the political, financial and cultural connections, are what makes CWD and their founders an integral part of the West Michigan Power Structure.

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