The new Toyota headquarters in Legacy West, Plano
- Call it the Toyota effect.
Two years ago, when Toyota said it was moving its U.S. headquarters from Southern California to Plano, the announcement made national headlines. The automaker was bringing up to 4,000 jobs and investing hundreds of millions of dollars. With its stature in Japan and beyond, the move validated Dallas-Fort Worth as a business base for international companies. Six months later, officials went to Torrance, Calif., then Toyota’s U.S. home, and held a seminar titled, “Why DFW now?” About 50 Japanese firms attended and a similar program is planned for this fall in New York. “They all wanted to know, ‘What does Toyota know?’ ” said Mike Rosa, senior vice president of economic development for the Dallas Regional Chamber. Toyota has plenty of company here. Kubota Tractor followed a similar path to Grapevine and Trend Micro came a year earlier to Irving. Both are based in Japan and had a U.S. headquarters in California.
In 2012, Dallas-Fort Worth had 112 Japanese firms with regional HQs or operations. By April, the number was 164, with 20 additions since last summer. “That’s why we’re seeing more flights between here and Japan,” said John Stich, honorary consul-general of Japan in Dallas. Stich, who tracks the number of Japanese companies here, said air travel connections were a crucial factor in North Texas’ appeal. DFW International Airport has 34 nonstops a week to Narita Airport, outside of Tokyo. Only three airports in the U.S. mainland have more -- in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
American Airlines has applied for a new daytime route from DFW to Haneda. That’s Tokyo’s close-in airport and a favorite for many business travelers. In filings with the U.S. Transportation Department, American and DFW touted the size of this market and airline hub, and the many connections. They also highlighted the growth in Japanese businesses, which generate demand for service to DFW and connecting flights to Latin America. DFW connects more passengers between Japan and Mexico than any other U.S. gateway, according to the filings. And the Haneda-DFW route would offer one-stop service to nine Mexican cities where over 100 Japanese companies have subsidiaries. “DFW is the only gateway capable of attracting the huge traffic between Latin America and Tokyo,” American said its application.
In 2012, DFW had 19 weekly flights to Asia; today, it has 52, airport officials said. Passenger traffic to Asia more than doubled in three years. In 2015, it grew 36 percent, over three times faster than total international traffic at DFW. Love Field also has become a major asset in selling the region, Rosa said, because it adds so much competition on domestic travel. Corporate visitors often look out from the chamber’s high-rise office in downtown Dallas and see flights taking off from Love and DFW. They’re impressed by how close the airports are, he said. And that underscores the strength of North Texas for companies that travel regularly.Japanese firms have come to Dallas for over 30 years. Initially, the focus was on telecom, semiconductors and electronics. More recently, Rosa said, there’s been growing interest from Japanese banks, retailers and homebuilders.
In 2014, North Texas had almost 10,000 people of Japanese descent; that’s well below the number from India, Vietnam, China, Korea and the Philippines. But Japan ranked No. 2 for international companies in the area, after the United Kingdom and ahead of Canada, according to the chamber. Since 2003, at least 175 Japanese projects have led to $19 billion in investment statewide. And that’s without the bullet train proposed for Dallas to Houston. If that multibillion-dollar project gets built, it would have Japanese technology and investment.
Executives in Japan often contact Takahashi to discuss potential locations in the U.S. In addition to the usual talking points -- the cost of living, low regulations and airline connections -- he touts the region's spending on highways and buildings. That impresses most outsiders. He also brags about the talent in North Texas, where he's hired key positions in finance, operations and information technology. “That’s huge,” Takahashi said. “Regardless of the industry sector, you know there’s a good talent pool for corporate leaders.” He likes to cite another sign of growth: ramen noodle restaurants. “When I moved here, there were almost none,” Takahashi said. “Now there are many, and that’s something Japanese businessmen really value.”
Gone to North Texas
While Japanese companies have put down roots in the Dallas area for over 30 years, the pace has accelerated sharply since Toyota’s announcement in 2014. Here are some marquee Japanese firms with regional headquarters or operations here:
* Canon USA
* Fujitsu America
* Hitachi America
* Kubota Tractor
* Kyocera America
* NEC Corp. of America
* Nippon Express
* Orix USA
* Toyo Cotton
* Trend Micro
* Uniden America
SOURCE: American Airlines filing with U.S. Transportation Department
- Dallas Morning News, July 5, 2016