Four Points company rallies state budget
For the past 3 1/2 years, Steve Farrar has given a voice to sports fans, college alumni, outdoors enthusiasts and Texans—all while adding $16.5 million to the state's general revenue coffers to support education, roadway improvement and other growth in the Lone Star State. The Steiner Ranch resident —president of License Plates of Texas, also known as MyPlates.com—is responsible for creating the colorful, personalized license plates displayed on many vehicles roaming the state.
Farrar stepped in to lead Texas' specialized license plate program following the 2008 departure of My Plates Inc., a subsidiary of an Australian-based company that founded Personalized Plates Queensland. Farrar originally moved from Australia to the U. S. to launch My Plates Inc. as general manager and was surprised when executives informed him the business was closing its North American operation. Farrar chose to remain in Austin and formed MyPlates.com, which, in November of 2009, was awarded a contract as Texas' sole vendor of specialized plates.
At the helm, Farrar immediately made big changes—slashing $200 off most plate prices, increasing communication about the product and adding more designs. Renamed as its website, buyers could easily find the new company, Farrar said. He partnered his venture with Etech Inc. and Pinnacle Technical Resources.
Farrar said that although each state has specialty license plates, he knows of no other state with a private vendor agreement for such plates.
Is it legal?
In 2003, Australian businessmen pitched the idea to Texas legislators of partnering with private vendors to design, sell and market specialty plates, with profits funding government programs, Farrar said. As a result, the Texas Legislature changed state law to allow the joint venture, Farrar said.
Each of the company's plate messages is vetted by the agency. The plates, made by Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmates, possess the same required safety and reflective qualities as other plates, Farrar said.
MyPlates.com coordinates the licensing and royalty fees for certain plates such as college and pro sports team logos. Farrar estimates that the cost to bring a new plate to market is about $4,615, fees that his company, not the taxpayer, absorb.
"We are here, and there's no risk to the state to run the project," said Farrar, who guaranteed Texas $25 million in revenue during the first five years of his 2009 contract. Farrar said MyPlates.com is on target to exceed that figure and deliver more than $28 million by 2014.
Nearly endless options
With more than 150 license plate designs possible, Farrar said he gives purchasers many choices. Pricing for the specialty plates begins at $55.
MyPlates.com also offers license plates that benefit various nonprofit organizations that retain a percentage of the overall profits from their specialty plate. On May 15, the business rolled out its newest design, a green camouflage plate, with a portion of sales donated to Carry the Load, which honors military, police, fire and other service members.
The specialty plates give people a voice, allow Texans to support a cause and be fans of their favorite teams, said Farrar, who sports "MRPL8S" on his vehicle.
President of MyPlates.com Steve Farrar and MyPlates.com public relations manager Kim Drummond admit to playing a guessing game as to what special messages may be behind some of the requested license plates.
Farrar was touched by one plate ordered through MyPlates.com's call center: 2LB7OZ. He discovered that a Texas mother had purchased the plate to celebrate the birth of her premature son.
"The boy, who was lucky to survive, had just turned 4 years old, and his mom wanted to do something special to commemorate that," Farrar said.
Aggies or 'Horns?
For sports-themed license plates, "[team] success breeds sales," Farrar said.
Texas A&M University plates recently began outselling University of Texas plates after the Aggies' 2012 season and Heisman Trophy win, Farrar said. Similarly, Houston Texans plates outsold Dallas Cowboys plates following last year's run.
Myplates.com, 7301 N. RR 620, Ste. 155 and 185, Austin, 888-769-7528, www.myplates.com, Twitter: @myplates