Cheng Chui Ping died of cancer in prison on Thursday. She made a career of smuggling thousands of Chinese immigrants to the U.S. and worked with a notoriously violent gang to enforce payment.
Toyota is moving its North American headquarters – all three of them. To Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas.
Right now the car company has its sales headquarters near Los Angeles, its manufacturing headquarters in Erlanger, Kentucky, and another headquarters in New York.
The move is part of reinvention at the company, says Columbia Graduate School of Business professor Rita Gunther McGrath.
"With the problems following on their latest recall and all the problems they had with unintended acceleration, they were in the process of rethinking a lot of things that had been taken for granted in that company, including things like location," she says.
Moving a large company offers a rare opportunity to alter a business's "social architecture" says McGrath. "It breaks through inertia, shakes up existing power relationships, and it changes the way people share information."
Old rationales for being located in different places were no longer as relevant as they were before. Los Angeles for example, where Toyota has its sales and marketing headquarters, no longer has the draw it once did.
"Once upon a time," says Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer, "the coast of California was the closest part of the mainland U.S. to Japan physically and that mattered," whether for transfer of people or cars. Now, the bulk of Toyotas in the U.S. are built in the U.S., from West Virginia to Indiana.
But why Plano, Texas?
It's closer to Toyotas plants, including its newest, most expensive one in San Antonio. Texas has tried to brand itself as a business-friendly place, and there were undoubtedly economic incentives offered by some constellation of state and or local governments.
But it's not just about the business. Toyota has to convince 4,000 people with families and hobbies and lives to move as well.
"This is difficult – this is a life event for a lot of people," says Dave Sullivan with Auto Pacific. People have to move their families, find new school districts, it's stressful. When Nissan moved to Nashville in 2005, many employees did not follow, creating significant challenges for the company.
Plano, part of greater Dallas, is more palatable than other options.
"Its mild climate, central location, transportation, quality of education – all of that is very desirable," says Kelley Blue Book's Brauer.
Texas also has no state income tax, which, when combined with the lower cost of living than Los Angeles or New York, is a powerful incentive in its own right.
Toyota says offices will move in stages and gradually, and that the move won't be complete until 2017.
On a recent Saturday morning in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the city's River Revitalization Corporation is showing off a plan to add green space to an area that's now dominated by heavy industry. And Lee Christie of architecture firm Perkins+Will is explaining some options.
"You'd be looking at more raised beds or more greenhouses," she says, "which really opens up the possibility for rooftops."
Rooftops have a lot of hidden potential. A new EPA study predicts that as cities grow hotter, replacing flat black rooftops with plants could cool the cities back down.
According to Phil Morefield, one of the co-authors of that study, "any sort of well-designed, well-maintained green roof will give some benefit for the building that it's installed on."
Those benefits include reversing urban warming, absorbing rain before it overburdens sewers, and providing habitat for butterflies.
There's just one problem: green roofs come with a big up-front cost. So now, some cities are experimenting with financial encouragement.
For example, Austin lets developers build more floor space if they include green roofs. And Seattle gives out credits and discounts for rooftop gardens.
"Properties that take advantage of that credit range from single family homes to a regional airport," says Seattle Urban Designer Dave LaClergue, "so they're very different in size and scale."
The gardens on top of the Chloe Apartments in Seattle. That's the Space Needle on the right.Courtesy of Dave LaClergue/City of Seattle
But it's been a learning process. Many of Seattle's first rooftop gardens died, since they were designed with assumptions based on what worked in east-coast cities. And a garden that cools one city might have less of an effect in another.
"There really isn't a 'one-size fits all' strategy," says Britta Bierwagen, another co-author on that EPA study. "And there are a lot of things to consider."
Financial incentives are similarly fickle. In Nashville, a credit of $10 per square foot of green roof hasn't attracted a single taker. But Portland, Oregon, got an overwhelming response to a credit of just half that much.
That's because green roofs need to be customized to what the market in each city wants, as much as to the weather. One market might respond best to grants, while another prefers tax credits.
Courtesy of Dave LaClergue/City of Seattle
For example, in Portland, the incentive amount was determined in part by the region's damp climate and sewers that combine wastewater with stormwater. "It was the amount that we could apply that essentially would cost less to manage a gallon with a green roof than it would with a pipe," explains Portland Environmental Program Coordinator Matt Burlin.
And green roof incentives aren't just for major cities. In tiny Saluda, North Carolina, the Polk County Community Foundation provided a $6,000 grant for a green roof on the new restrooms at Pearson's Falls.
On a recent afternoon, foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Nager stopped by to see how the plants are filling in. It's looking good: "The roof resembles the forest floor in the glenn below the waterfall," she observes. "There are smooth rocks that fill the space where you expect to see traditional gutters."
It's more than just a few rocks and sage bushes, of course. It's part of a national experiment that's happening right over our heads.