Toyota gave Plano schools $1 million Monday and threw a block party for the public as it officially said "hello" to the city where it’s moving its North American headquarters. So, why Plano?
The predictable speeches from Gov. Rick Perry and Toyota executives praised Texas as business-friendly and Plano as a safe, affordable, and well-educated city. Jim Lentz, Toyota North America’s CEO, said in considering the decision, he initially looked about a decade ahead.
Then his boss, Akio Toyoda, said to think longer term.
“What changes do you need to make today to make this company better 50 years from now?” Toyoda asked Lentz.
“And the idea of this one Toyota, bringing all the affiliates together, to me was the biggest change we needed to make," Lentz said.
Lentz wanted to bring sales, marketing, finance, engineering, and other corporate employees based in at least three other states together in one place that was also closer to its factories. He and his team looked a 100 different towns.
“There is no question Texas is the best state to be in," Lentz said. "I think this area in Plano, northern Texas, is by far the premier place in the country to be.”
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere says money probably helped.
“Like a cake there’s a lot of ingredients as part of it," he said. "But the Texas Enterprise Fund provided $40 million in incentive. City of Plano was $6.7 million. I believe North Carolina offered $107 million. They chose here. It was really about their people and the quality of life."
Lentz said good schools helped make a difference.
“The backbone of any community is their education system,” Lentz said. “So the fact you have great public schools in this entire area, there’s no reason someone would have to live 15 minutes from their homes. And I can tell you today in California that’s not quite possible because of the cost of housing.”
Speaking of housing, Lentz has already moved here, along with a handful of Toyota executives. By this time next year, he expects 650 families will have moved to North Texas. In all, about 4,000 employees will work at Toyota’s new headquarters.