Neighborly Advice -- Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz (left) and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere share a moment at the grand opening of Toyota's North American Headquarters last week.
To see exactly how we arrived at last week’s grand opening, click here.
There was pomp and pageantry. As well there should have been because, when you’re looking 50 years into the future, well, you need a little showmanship.
So when CEO Jim Lentz stood on stage in Plano, Texas, Thursday night to introduce the world to a brand new, state-of-the-art North American Headquarters, his tone took a sense of wonderment and hope.
The grand opening of Toyota’s new headquarters campus meant a lot of things to a lot of people. But for Lentz, it was clearly something special. The project started with his 2013 conversation with Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda and his shocking 2014 announcement to team members. For the most part, it ended Thursday in the Sequoia Pavilion, the large onsite meeting space that will host hundreds of Toyota and Lexus events over the next 50 years.
“Tonight marks the culmination of three years of a lot of planning, hard work, dedication and strong support from our business partners, key stakeholders, government officials and, of course, our team members,” Lentz said.
He was right. It was a culmination of the Plano project, and the true beginning of One Toyota.
Welcome Sight -- Jim Lentz began the grand opening by addressing the 350 guests on hand.
A Brief History in Plano
Just a few months after the 2014 announcement, team members began coming to Plano from Erlanger, Kentucky, Torrance, California and other locations. The procession gained force over time, in a cramped, underwhelming office called, formally, The Campus at Legacy (and, informally, TCAL). As the new headquarters was erected about a mile away, TCAL’s occupants went from a handful of pioneers to more than a thousand. Eventually, the workspace doubled with a little creative leasing. Our friends at Toyota Financial Services set up shop in their own temporary workspace.
Over time, space became more and more cramped and TCAL began to feel more like a college dorm than a temporary home to one of the world’s best-known companies. But in that tight fit, an interesting thing happened: team member bonds tightened. Employees from what used to be TEMA, TMA and TMS began working together on projects. And those barriers of communication that caused so much confusion in the past, well, they collapsed as distance and unfamiliarity faded away.
In May, team members began moving into Toyota’s state-of-the-art, $1 billion campus. It was just 250 at first, giving the halls signs of life for the first time. Then 250 more the next week. And 250 more the week after. So last Thursday, as Toyota showed its new campus to the world, 2,000 team members spent the day working diligently in the open office space and socializing in line at the dining center.
A New Hope
Hello, Texas! -- From left: TFS CEO Mike Groff, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, TMNA CEO Jim Lentz,
TMNA General Manager of Real Estate and Facilities Doug Beebe and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere gather at the grand opening.
Aside from Lentz, the grand opening featured remarks from TMNA Chief Diversity Officer Chris Reynolds, TFS CEO Mike Groff, Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Of elected officials, LaRosiliere, in particular, played a critical role in bringing us to Plano.
“At times, it seems like it has taken forever,” LaRosiliere said. “And other times it feels like it has happened in the blink of an eye. We are here now. We call Plano the center of the universe, so today is truly the Big Bang.”
The true value of Toyota’s presence, LaRosiliere said, wasn’t the money or prestige it brings. No, the value of Toyota is the team members who live and work in Plano, and don’t hesitate to give back to the Plano Independent School District or the North Texas Food Bank, among other organizations.
And, to drive home LaRosileire’s point, Groff took the stage to award a $1 million Impact Grant to the Collin County Mobility Collaborative, a group of nonprofits that will use the money to aid homeless women and their children. The grant came from TMNA and TFS, in collaboration with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
Four years ago, the idea of Toyota team members collectively volunteering for a Plano charity just didn’t register. But it’s funny what can happen over time. Back then, TEMA built the cars, TMS sold the cars and TFS financed the cars. Sometimes their interests overlapped. Often, communication at the ground level was challenged by barriers.
But over the years and by design, those roles have bled into each other. Now, we still have marketers, and we still have manufacturers. But we’re all One Toyota. A talented workforce thousands strong, working together toward a common goal.
“As you’ll see,” Lentz told the audience, “our new headquarters is proof that a few thousand people – with a lot of heavy equipment – can dream and build something remarkable.”
With that, Toyota’s story in Plano truly begins with team members from Kentucky, Michigan, California, New York and Texas in place or on the way. And Lentz at the helm of a company stronger than it ever was and ready to take on the future.
By Dan Nied
Editor’s Note: As you can imagine, Toyota’s Grand Opening garnered loads of media attention. Here are a few of our favorite articles and videos.