In 2017, Toyota established a unified “One Toyota” headquarters in Plano, Texas, highlighting the company’s dedication to expanding its North America operations. Since then, Toyota’s presence in the United States continues to grow. For the first time in American history, in 2021 Toyota overtook General Motors as the top automobiles seller in the United States.
However, Toyota’s impact is not limited to its automobile sales. Its move to Plano also brought a noticeable influx of Japanese investment into the city and the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex. Named the “Toyota effect “, other Japanese companies moved their operations and offices to the DFW area. In 2012, the area was home to 112 Japanese companies’ regional headquarters. As of 2018, this number has grown to about 215. While most Japanese companies are related to semiconductor and automobile production, financial firms and investors have also recently taken an interest in Plano. Tokio Marine Holdings, an international insurance company, established a regional office in 2019. Located in Legacy West, a shopping and cultural district , Tokio Marine’s move was part of a $3 billion real estate development project and is right across the street from Toyota’s headquarters.
Perhaps the most noticeable change for Plano and DFW residents are the growing number of Japanese local businesses, specifically restaurants and cafes. Asian communities once exclusively filled with boba shops and Korean BBQ now see more sushi and even pop-up Wagyu-beef restaurants. These restaurants not only highlight the need to cater to Japanese customers and tastes, but also how companies based in Japan were drawn to expanding to Plano. Restaurants like Ebesu, established by a Tokyo-based group, boasts how Plano is home to Japanese-owned businesses and was the first place in North America where investors sought to expand operations. A spokesperson for the restaurant attributes their investment to Toyota’s relocation. Japanese supermarket Mitsuwa, originally based in Torrance, California, opened a Plano location in 2017. From restaurants to supermarkets, a vast array of Japanese businesses have followed Toyota’s footsteps and created a welcome space for the growing DFW Japanese community.
Paul Pass, Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort-Worth, states:
“First, Toyota's move to North Texas had a direct impact on attracting other large Japanese firms to relocate their US operations to the region. Japanese companies look increasingly to the DFW area and Texas as an environment friendly to business, where their employees can thrive both during and outside of their work hours, and a location poised for continued growth, along with a well-educated and skilled labor force. Second, Toyota is a major philanthropic contributor and investor into community initiatives. In regard to the Japan-America Society, its presence has led to a strengthening of organizations which share the message of Japan's rich culture and dynamic economy.”
With a total of 49,037 Japanese Americans living in Texas and 51,300 jobs at Japanese-owned companies, both people and industries have immensely shaped Japan-Texas connections. Toyota is certainly an important part of these developments.
Jae Chang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a recent graduate of Cornell University, where he studied Government and China & Asia-Pacific Studies.