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#3 – A Secret Meeting with the Governor

by | May 2, 2016

Yuki drew close and pulled a letter from his suit coat. “This is my letter of resignation,” he said. “I have told Chairman Toyoda and Dr. Toyoda that I will resign if this new channel fails. This will take guts, Dave-san, guts! Now, I’m counting on you.”

My mind took me back several years earlier to Cincinnati. Yuki had set up a secret meeting with Martha Layne Collins, the Governor of Kentucky, and was coming to Cincinnati.

The NUMMI joint venture with GM in Freemont, California had gone well, and Toyota was going to announce the location for its first production plant in the United States. Yuki told me not to tell anyone that he was coming to Cincinnati. The board of directors was still considering two locations for the new plant, one site in Tennessee and another in Kentucky. The Tennessee site was considered the better of the two and was favored by most of the board members. Yuki did not agree. There were already two automobile plants in Tennessee, a GM plant and a Nissan plant. Yuki believed Toyota would be more important to the state of Kentucky. The board had concerns about Kentucky because of its backwoods image, its educational system, and the quality of its workforce. Yuki was counting on me to prepare a package for the board that would explain the business and educational opportunities between the triangle of major cities of Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington. I was to tell no one what I was doing.

Yuki and his translator, Mark Verre, flew into Cincinnati on the company plane so no one would suspect he was going to Kentucky. I met the plane, and the three of us drove down to Frankfort, Kentucky the night before, through a major thunderstorm. The next morning there was minor flooding, and fallen trees were everywhere. I drove Yuki to the Governor’s Mansion for his private breakfast meeting at 8:00 a.m. I was not invited into the meeting and waited outside.

As we were driving back to Cincinnati, Yuki sat in the passenger seat and Mark sat in the back. Mark leaned forward and asked, “Yuki, you told the governor that if the state would offer a few more concessions, the board would decide to award the plant to Kentucky. She agreed. I didn’t think a decision had been made. The board meeting isn’t until next week.”

Radiating confidence, Yuki stated, “The board will decide the plant should be in Kentucky.”

“But what if they don’t?” Mark asked.

“If they don’t, I will resign!” Yuki stated.

The Georgetown, Kentucky plant opened in 1988. It is the largest vehicle manufacturing plant in the world, covering 600,000 acres. It has over 7,500 associates and has produced more than 10 million vehicles since opening.

King Solomon wrote, “Well-spoken words bring satisfaction. Well-done work has
its own rewards.” Proverbs 12:14 (MSG)

Next Week’s Preview:

I listened to Yuki and was filled with a growing realization that Yuki Togo’s “guts” would play a large part in the success of the Flagship 1 project. What I did not realize is that it would start right away with the name.

(To be continued next Monday in “Flagship 1 Gets a Name”)