Toyota North America made a splash when it chose to relocate to Plano. As parts of Collin County’s vibrant business sector come to fruition, others have just begun.
“We love Plano!” That’s the first thing Tim Moynihan, the vice president of marketing at SOLiD, enthusiastically declared when I asked about his company’s move from Sunnyvale, California to North Texas. SOLiD is a tech company that provides businesses with in-building cell service; one of their biggest clients is Toyota. Their recent move from California’s popular, tech-savvy Silicon Valley made headlines and even got a shoutout from Senator John Cornyn who tweeted, “Toyota supplier moves its California headquarters to Plano.”
While SOLiD isn’t bringing 5,000 jobs to the area like Toyota, according to Tim, they have plans to double the size of the company within the next year. That’s exactly the kind of thing city officials love to hear.
When Toyota announced they were moving their North American headquarters to Plano, City Manager Bruce Glasscock knew it was going to be a game changer for the community.
“That’s the largest development catch the city has had since JCPenney [in 1987],” he explains. “It’s clear that deal put Plano on a different competitive level. It brought a lot of attention to the city and contributed to additional [businesses] moving.
“Of course, you can’t discount what’s happened at Legacy West. What Fehmi [Karahan] has done is significant. [Companies] are interested in providing amenities for employees. We knew the area would be important, but we’re surprised how quickly it grew and took off.”
Other big companies like JPMorgan Chase, Liberty Mutual and Boeing Global Services are opening shop in Plano, but surrounding cities have also seen business gains. Dallas caught the eye of New York-based advertising and marketing giant Saatchi & Saatchi who began looking for a new North Texas office after one of their biggest clients, Toyota, announced their move.
While many real estate brokers thought Saatchi & Saatchi would land in Plano, Uptown’s swanky McKinney & Olive tower won their favor, and the company signed a lease for more than 50,000 square feet of office space. According to John Goff, CEO of Crescent Real Estate who built the high-rise, the ad company’s goals were geared towards recruiting and retaining talent, which required them to choose a mixed-use area such as Uptown.
But losing businesses to a neighbor doesn’t keep City Manager Bruce Glasscock awake at night.
“A rising tide lifts all ships,” he says. “What we’re seeing—like with Capital One’s expansions—is every city around us benefits, and we try to play off of each other’s strengths. It’s a competitive business, there’s no getting around that, but we’re friendly competitors. Once a company makes a decision, we come together to show them the benefits of the entire region. When we’re providing information to those companies, we try and draw in other cities—particularly on the school side. Once it’s no longer competitive, we switch gears and focus on how can we get together and make sure the relocation or expansion is as easy as can be.”
As new businesses relocate their employees and hire new ones from the local workforce, having neighbors who can do what Plano can’t is imperative.
“We know that … Plano is built out residentially,” Bruce says. “A lot of employees will have to look at other communities, and it’s a real advantage having excellent school systems around us. PISD is an important stakeholder in our marketing strategy. But we also make it known that there are other school districts that are exceptional, and if they live outside of Plano, their kids will have a quality education system too.”
Nowadays, it seems as though houses in Plano go up for sale one day and are snatched up the next. There’s no doubt North Texas homes are a hot commodity. According to a recent WalletHub study of 300 cities across the country, Frisco is No. 1 for a combination of its real-estate market, affordability and economic environment. Neighboring cities, McKinney, Allen, Carrollton and Richardson, also made the top ten. Plano hits the list at No. 27, dropping significantly from No. 9 last year, but not due to affordability or economic environment. (In another study by WalletHub released this year, Plano was named the second best city for jobs.) Simply, there are less homes available, but this doesn’t mean the city looks any less attractive to potential businesses hoping to move or expand.
“Most people who moved from [California] are extremely happy,” Tim from SOLiD says. “They rave about the beautiful homes and love the lifestyle in the general area. The cost of living is much more affordable, and the value for homes is so much better than where they’ve been living. We’ve been here just shy of two months, and we can’t say enough good things.”
Legacy West is nearly finished, Toyota and other companies are bringing in the last of their employees and most of Plano’s open lots are under development at this very moment. In order to continue Plano’s growth, the city’s next big task will be planning the redevelopment of outdated retail corners and shopping centers like Collin Creek Mall. While plans for Collin Creek are up in the air, could the space be exactly what a business like Amazon is looking for in their new headquarters? City officials are tight-lipped about any future deals.
“Collin Creek Mall is essentially a chance to redefine our Downtown Plano boundaries,” Mayor Harry LaRosiliere. Though the details are still in the hands of private developers, he envisions a mixed-use development with a live-work-play environment made up of office space, multi-family living, retail and paths along the edge of the creek itself, “a true downtown district” that expands beyond K Avenue and 15th Street.