Former, current Plano officials reflect on Ross Perot Sr.’s legacy

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Current and former Plano city officials have credited the late H. Ross Perot Sr. as the visionary who jump-started the development of the city’s Legacy business corridor.

Perot died last week in Dallas at the age of 89.

Perot purchased thousands of acres of Plano land as part of a vision to expand his company’s headquarters north of Dallas, Plano Council Member Rick Grady said. Grady worked at Electronic Data Systems, Perot’s company, during the early stages of the development of the area.

“Ross said more than once [that]  everything is moving north,” Grady said. ”Back in the late ’70s early ’80s, that was rural land, and hardly anything was developed north of [I-635].”

Global corporations such as J.C. Penney and Frito-Lay soon bought into the master-planned development in the 1980s and 1990s. Florence Shapiro, who was the mayor of Plano in the early 1990s, recalled Perot as being a visionary for what he accomplished.

“That’s the first word I would put next to his name, is ‘H. Ross Perot: visionary,’” Shapiro said in a video interview provided by the city of Plano. “He can look out into the future and see what the figure will look like.”

Other corporations to open offices on Perot’s original tract of land include Toyota, Capital One, Liberty Mutual and FedEx Office. But Perot’s plan to develop the area did not stop with the construction of corporate offices.

Through Hillwood, his residential development company, Perot built housing for the thousands of employees that would eventually work in the area, Grady said.

“The idea was: ‘If we build the headquarters here, and other headquarters move here, we are going to need housing,’” Grady said.

In the 1980s, Perot sold EDS to General Motors Corp. for $2.5 billion and received $700 million in a buyout, according to The Associated Press. Dallas-based Highland Capital purchased the original EDS buildings last year.

Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere said in February that those offices are “ripe for redevelopment.”

In the years following the selling of his company, Perot made two unsuccessful bids for the U.S. presidency while running as an independent candidate.

Grady recalled he was hired at EDS on the spot in part because Perot liked hiring people with a military background. He recalls Perot as resembling a military leader as the founder of EDS.

“In the early days, the vast majority of EDS operated with military personnel, and we were all veterans,” Grady said. “A lot of the things that we did within EDS were kind of like walking out the military and walking into another unit. He was our commander-in-chief.”

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Gavin Pugh
Gavin got his chops as a reporter when he was editor-in-chief of the Baylor Lariat. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Baylor University and has since come on board as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's Plano edition. His beat includes transportation, Plano ISD and municipal government.
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