| TORRANCE, CA, April 28
TORRANCE, CA, April 28 Toyota Motor Corp's
decision to move its North American sales headquarters from
California to Texas was met by disbelief in Torrance, this Los
Angeles exurb where the Japanese car manufacturer has run its
U.S. operations since 1982.
Torrance Mayor Frank Scotto, looking grim, said outside city
hall on Monday that he had been blindsided by the move. A few
feet away sat Pat Simpson, a Torrance resident for over 60
years, with her head in her hands. "Why do they want to tear
this place apart?" Simpson, 72, asked.
Scotto said his first inkling of Toyota's decision to move
to Plano, Texas, came last Thursday, when he was told by Toyota
to expect a phone call at 9.45 a.m. on Monday - just before the
company was to make its decision official.
"At first I thought it was about something else," Scotto
said. "Even this morning, despite all the rumors this weekend,
we thought it was only going to be part of Toyota moving - not
just everything." The decision, he said, was "sad news".
The two biggest employers in Torrance, which has a
population of 147,000 according to city figures, are Toyota and
Honda. Both have about 4,000 employees. Losing Toyota will mean
an annual loss of $1.2 million in tax revenue, Scotto said, but
the emotional toll and wider economic impact will be much
bigger, he said.
Scotto's son-in-law works for Toyota so the mayor faces the
prospect of his daughter and grandchildren moving to Texas.
"It's going to affect tens of thousands of people," he said.
About five percent of the city's workforce is employed by
Toyota. Last year the city had an annual budget of $271 million,
and $121 million of long-term debt.
Scotto, mayor since 2006, thanked Toyota for all it had
contributed to the city, including a recent $500,000 donation to
help build a new sports complex a few blocks from city hall.
Scotto said it is to be called the Toyota Sports Complex,
although the sign hasn't been put up yet.
As he spoke to reporters and a small crowd of residents, his
words were interrupted by the sound of breaking glass and
crunching metal from an auto accident 50 feet away. It was that
kind of morning in Torrance.
Whether the city can replace Toyota, and fill the 101-acre
business park and headquarters it will leave behind, remains to
be seen. Scotto said the city had a short list of companies
similar to Toyota that are being courted to replace the Japanese
But conceding that the battle to keep Toyota was lost before
it had even begun - "the train has already left the station,"
Scotto said - he also said it takes the state of California, not
a small city such as Torrance, to stop large manufacturers from
leaving the Golden State.
Frank Portillo, a co-owner of Los Chilaquiles Mexican Grill
next to the Toyota headquarters said he did not blame Toyota,
although he might lose business himself. "The taxes are lower in
Texas. There are fewer regulations. It's cheaper for a company
there. Why wouldn't they leave California?"
(Reporting by Tim Reid, editing by John Pickering)