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DeVos front group AmplifyGR, shifts tactical approach to influence outcomes in southeast part of Grand Rapids

May 30, 2019

On May 25, MLive ran an article on a new partnership between Home Repair Services and the DeVos-backed entity AmplifyGR. 

This new effort between the two groups, called the Neighborhood Strong program, has been funded through the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation, the CDV5 Foundation, as well as banks and utilities, according to AmplifyGR director Jon Ippel. It is safe to say that the bulk of the $325,000 provided is coming from the DeVos family, since they have already invested over $10 million on property in that part of Grand Rapids.

The project does provide funding for homeowners in the southeast part of Grand Rapids to make repairs on their homes, which is a positive thing. A few of the homeowners are cited in the MLive article, along with representatives from AmplifyGR and Home Repair Services.

At one point, the MLive story states, “Amplify was initially greeted with suspicion from some neighbors who expressed concerns about gentrification, but it has since been working to build relationships with residents and community groups.”

This statement is instructive and it speaks to the tactical changes that AmplifyGR has taken since it first became public back in the Spring of 2017.  AmplifyGR was greeted with more than suspicion in the summer of 2017, when neighbors and other members of the public called the DeVos-created entity out during several public forums.

After AmplifyGR’s the 3rd community forum and continued push back, they decided to cancel any future forums. AmplifyGR then made this statement:

“If going slower is the price of getting this right… of NOT repeating the mistakes of the past… it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Our community is worth it. And our commitment and passion to achieving the above priorities has never been greater.”

AmplifyGR has shifted their tactical approach to meeting with small groups of people and individuals in the southeast area, thus eliminating community accountability. When organizations like AmplifyGR, which has the back of the wealthiest family in West Michigan, chose to operate with limited transparency, you can be sure that they still are committed to their original agenda, an agenda reflected in the graphic below.

In addition to the Neighborhood Strong program, AmplifyGR has partnered with another DeVos entity, Start Garden, to push an entrepreneurial approach to community development, held turkey give aways, provided personal finance counseling opportunities to residents and other mini grant options.

What AmplifyGR has NOT done is to develop the three dozen properties they invested in with their development partner Rockford Construction. Again, this speaks to the transparency issue, since their is no clear plan on what their longterm agenda is, specifically with the $10 million worth of property that they own. And this is exactly why the community had major concerns about gentrification. When the wealthiest family buys that much land in any neighborhood, they aren’t doing it for altruistic reasons.

None of us should be fooled by the piecemeal services and bandaid approach to neighborhood stabilization projects that AmplifyGR has been engaged in in the past 18 months. People should demand full transparency from AmplifyGR and an articulation of their longterm plans for this part of southeast Grand Rapids where they have engaged in a land grab.

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