Indigenous peoples around Collin County and North Texas included the Caddo, Comanche, Cherokee, Delaware, Kickapoo, and Tonkawa. European settlers came to the area near present-day Plano in the early 1840s. Facilities such as a sawmill, a gristmill, and a store soon brought more people to the area. A mail service was established, and after rejecting several names for the nascent town (including naming it in honor of then-President Millard Fillmore), residents suggested the name Plano (from the Spanish word for "flat") in reference to the local terrain, unvaried and devoid of any trees. The post office accepted the name.
In 1872, the completion of the Houston and Central Texas Railway helped Plano grow, and it was incorporated in 1873. By 1874, the population was over 500. In 1881, a fire raged through the business district, destroying most of the buildings. Plano was rebuilt and business again flourished through the 1880s. Also in 1881, the city assumed responsibility for what would eventually become Plano Independent School District (PISD), ending the days of it being served only by private schools.
At first, Plano's population grew slowly, reaching 1,304 in 1900 and 3,695 in 1960. By 1970, Plano began to feel some of the boom its neighbors had experienced after World War II. A series of public works projects and a change in taxes that removed the farming community from the town helped increase the population. In 1970, the population reached 17,872, and by 1980, it had exploded to 72,000. Sewers, schools, and street development kept pace with this massive increase, largely because of Plano's flat topography, grid layout, and planning initiatives.
During the 1980s, many large corporations, including J. C. Penney and Frito-Lay, moved their headquarters to Plano, spurring further growth. By 1990, the population reached 128,713, dwarfing the county seat, McKinney. In 1994, Plano was recognized as an All-America City. By 2000, the population grew to 222,030, making it one of Dallas's largest suburbs. Plano is surrounded by other municipalities and so cannot expand in area, and there is little undeveloped land within the city limits. But as of July 2012, one large tract of land was being developed: Turnpike Commons at the intersection of Renner Road and the George Bush Turnpike (also bordered by Shiloh Road to the east). The development is expected to feature apartments, medical facilities, restaurants, a Race Trac gas station, and a hotel.
On June 15, 2015, after five years of disuse, a 178-foot water tower built in 1985 was demolished to make room for Legacy West.
Plano is in the humid subtropical climate zone. The highest recorded temperature was 118 °F (48 °C) in 1936. On average, the coolest month is January and the warmest is July. The lowest recorded temperature was –7 °F (–22 °C) in 1930. The maximum average precipitation occurs in May.
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 285,494 people, 107,320 households, and 76,211 families residing in the city. As of the census of 2010[update], Plano had 259,841 people, 99,131 households and 69,464 families, up from 80,875 households and 60,575 families in the 2000 census. The population density was 3,629.1 people per square mile (1,400.8/km2). There were 103,672 housing units at an average density of 1,448.6 per square mile (559.3/km2).
Of the 99,131 households in 2010, 35.8% had children under the age of 18. Married couples accounted for 56.7%; 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% were non-families. About 24.4% of all households were individuals, and 5.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61, and the average family size was 3.15. Data indicates that 28.7% of Plano's population was under the age of 18, 7.0% was 18 to 24, 36.5% was 25 to 44, 22.9% was 45 to 64, and 4.9% was 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34. For every 100 females, there were 99.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.2 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $84,492, and the median income for a family was $101,616. About 3.0% of families and 4.3% of the population were living below the poverty line, including 4.6% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those 65 or older. In 2007, Plano had the United States' highest median income among cities with a population exceeding 250,000, at $84,492.According to crime statistics, there were four homicides in Plano in 2006, the lowest rate of all U.S. cities of 250,000 or more people.
As of the 2000 U.S. census[update], of the foreign-born residents, 17% were from China, 9% from India, and 4% from Vietnam; a total of 30% of foreign-born residents came from these three countries. That year, 22% of Plano's foreign-born originated in Mexico.
Along with Houston, Plano has one of Texas's two major concentrations of Chinese Americans. According to the 2010 U.S. census, there were 14,500 ethnic Chinese in Plano. Of cities with 250,000 or more residents, Plano has the sixth-largest percentage of ethnic Chinese, making up 5.2% of the city's population. Charlie Yue, the executive vice president of the Association of Chinese Professionals, estimated that about 30,000 Plano residents are Chinese and that many "don't participate in government activities, like the census".
Chinese professionals began to settle Plano by 1991. As of 2011, DFW's Chinese restaurants catering to ethnic Chinese are mainly in Plano and Richardson. Most of the DFW-area Chinese cultural organizations are headquartered in Plano and Richardson. Plano has six Chinese churches and supermarkets, including 99 Ranch Market and zTao Marketplace.
Some of the country's largest and most recognized companies are headquartered in Plano. Legacy Drive in ZIP Code 75024, between Preston Road and Dallas North Tollway, has many corporate campuses. The following companies have corporate headquarters (Fortune 1000 headquarters) or major regional offices in Plano:
The Plano Public Library System (PPLS) consists of the W.O. Haggard, Jr. Library, the Maribelle M. Davis Library, the Gladys Harrington Library, the Christopher A. Parr Library, the L.E.R. Schimelpfenig Library, and the Municipal Reference Library. The Haggard Library houses the system's administrative offices.
Dickens in Downtown Plano 2014 Lighting of the Tree
Although Plano is named for the flat plains of the area, large trees abound in the city's many parks. One such tree, estimated to be over 200 years old, is in Bob Woodruff Park, near Rowlett Creek on the city's east side.
There are two main open space preserves: Arbor Hills Nature Preserve (200 acres) which contains a pond in honor of Vasil Levski and Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve (800 acres). Bob Woodruff Park and Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve are connected by biking trails, making the green space one large uninterrupted park space larger than New York City's Central Park (840 acres). Go Ape, a family-friendly place with outdoor activities like ziplining and Tarzan swings, is at Oak Point Park and Preserve. The Plano Balloon Festival, which happens every September, also takes place at Oak Point Park and Preserve. Another open space is Haggard Park, which hosts the annual Plano AsiaFest in May. Acreage of all spaces the Parks Department manages totals 3,830.81. The Plano Master Plan has the acreage growing to 4,092.63 when complete.
There are five recreation centers: Tom Muehlenbeck Recreation Center, Carpenter Park Recreation Center, Oak Point Recreation Center, Liberty Recreation Center, and Douglass Community Center. Carpenter Park Recreation Center, Oak Point Recreation Center, and Tom Muehlenbeck Recreation Center have an indoor pool, while Liberty Recreation Center has an outdoor pool. Plano Senior Recreation Center is a recreation center dedicated to seniors. There are three swimming pools owned by Plano Parks & Recreation: Harry Rowlinson Community Natatorium, Jack Carter Pool, and Plano Aquatic Center. All the pools are indoor except Jack Carter Pool. Douglass Community Center houses the Boys & Girls Club of Collin County. For pet owners, there are The Dog Park at Jack Carter Park, The Dog Park at Bob Woodruff, and Dog Park at Windhaven Meadows Park.
The City of Plano also owns and operates four performing arts venues and a conference center under the auspices of the Parks and Recreation Department: the Courtyard Theater, the Cox Playhouse, the Amphitheater at Oak Point Park, McCall Plaza, and the Oak Point Park Nature and Retreat Center.
Plano has a council-manager form of government, with a part-time city council that sets city policy and a city manager responsible for city operations. The Plano City Council has eight members elected on a nonpartisan basis in staggered odd-year elections every other May. Council members and the mayor are elected by and serve the city at large. Council members serving in places one, two, three, and four must reside in that district, and the mayor always serves in place six. The mayor receives a yearly stipend of $8,400, and each council member receives $6,000.
All council members, including the mayor, serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms. The mayor and city council members could serve for a maximum of three consecutive three-year terms until voters approved changes to the city charter in 2011.
The 38th mayor of Plano was businessman Harry LaRosiliere, who was elected the first African-American mayor of Plano in 2013. Plano elected its first African-American city council member, David Perry, in 1990.
On December 8, 2014, the city council passed an amendment to its civil rights act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected. The ordinance drew the ire of conservative groups such as the Liberty Institute, which argued that it infringed on business owners' religious rights. Many civil rights organizations were not supportive either, such as the Human Rights Campaign, which argued that the policy's exclusion of transgender individuals from being able to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity rendered the ordinance not worth defending.
In the 2008 fiscal year Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Plano reported $194 million in revenue, $212 million in expenditures, $278 million in total assets, $31.4 million in total liabilities, and $337 million in cash and investments.
Plano is a voluntary member of the North Central Texas Council of Governments association, the purpose of which is to coordinate individual and collective local governments and facilitate regional solutions, eliminate unnecessary duplication, and enable joint decisions.
In 2020, Police Chief Ed Drain announced the Plano Police Department would no longer make arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Dallas's wealthy northern suburbs were solidly Republican and in 2005, the Bay Area Center for Voting Research ranked Plano, the largest of them, the United States' fifth-most conservative city. It has become more competitive in national elections as its population has diversified, shifting toward the Democratic Party since 2016, when Donald Trump won the city by a narrow margin. In 2018, Beto O'Rourke became the first Democrat to win the city in a statewide election in the 21st century, and in 2020, Joe Biden won the city by an even larger margin. But in local and state elections, Plano still leans Republican, voting to reelect Governor Greg Abbott in 2018 and narrowly reelecting Republicans to the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate in 2018 and 2020.
2020 US Presidential Election precinct results by margin of victory
Plano city vote by party in presidential elections
Plano schools graduate more of their students than comparable districts. In 2010, 93% of Plano Independent Student District students graduated from high school, 18 percentage points higher than Dallas ISD's rate. In 2012, Plano Independent School District announced that 128 seniors were selected as National Merit Semifinalists.
Plano has given $1.2 billion in property tax revenue to other school districts through Texas's "Robin Hood" law, which requires school districts designated as affluent to give a percentage of their property tax revenue to other districts outside the county. In 2008, PISD gave $86 million. Controversy erupted when the salaries of teachers in less affluent districts—such as Garland ISD—exceeded the salaries of teachers in districts that had to pay into "Robin Hood".
In the 2013–14 school year, Plano ISD opened two four-year high school academies, one focusing on STEAM (STEM education plus Media Arts) called Plano ISD Academy High School, and the other on health science. Additionally, the district modified its International Baccalaureate program to allow freshmen and sophomores in the program to be housed at Plano East Senior High School.
Plano is the home to two campuses of Collin College, one at the Courtyard Center on Preston Park Boulevard and the larger Spring Creek Campus on Spring Creek Parkway at Jupiter. DBU North, a satellite campus of Dallas Baptist University, is in west Plano, and offers undergraduate and graduate courses and houses the admissions and academic counseling offices.
Plano is one of 12 suburbs of Dallas that opt into the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) public transportation system. During its early membership in DART, Plano was lightly served by bus lines, but in 2002, the Red Line of the DART Light Rail project opened stations in Downtown Plano and at Parker Road, which provide access to commuters traveling to work elsewhere in the Dallas area. The Orange Line traverses the same route for selected weekday/peak hour trips. The Silver Line is also planned to run through Southern Plano. Approximately 1% of the city's population uses DART. The Parker Road station charged for parking for non-member city residents from April 2, 2012, to April 3, 2014, as a part of the Fair Share Parking initiative. Two DART park-and-ride bus facilities, separate from the rail lines, are in Plano: Jack Hatchell Transit Center and Northwest Plano Park & Ride.
Plano opened a new interchange at Parker Rd. and U.S. 75 in December 2010. The single-point interchange is the first of its kind in Texas. The design is intended to reduce severe congestion at this interchange. According to reports, traffic congestion has been reduced by 50-75%.
Plano Fire-Rescue has 386 full-time firefighters who operate out of 13 stations. The department is responsible for a population of 271,000 residents spread across 72 square miles (190 km2). It is also the 10th largest department (by number of firefighters) in the state of Texas.
The Plano Police Department is an accredited agency and Plano's principal law enforcement agency. The department is led by Chief Ed Drain. The department has authorized staff of 414 sworn officers, 178 full-time civilian employees, and 79 civilian part-time employees. It is a member of the North Texas Crime Commission and uses the Crime Stoppers program.
Plano is part of the North Texas Municipal Water District, headquartered in Wylie, Texas. Lake Lavon is the district's principal source of raw water. Plano's water distribution system includes:
^Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.
^Brettell, Caroline B. '"Big D" Incorporating New Immigrants in a Sunbelt Suburban Metropolis' (Chapter 3). In: Singer, Audrey, Susan Wiley Hardwick, and Caroline Brettell. Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America (James A. Johnson metro series). Brookings Institution Press, 2009. ISBN0815779283, 9780815779285. Start p. 53. CITED: p.64.
^Brettell, Caroline B. '"Big D" Incorporating New Immigrants in a Sunbelt Suburban Metropolis' (Chapter 3). In: Singer, Audrey, Susan Wiley Hardwick, and Caroline Brettell. Twenty-First Century Gateways: Immigrant Incorporation in Suburban America (James A. Johnson metro series). Brookings Institution Press, 2009. ISBN0815779283, 9780815779285. Start p. 53. CITED: p.61.
^"General Information". Plano Public Library System. Archived from the original on October 25, 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2011. W.O. Haggard, Jr. Library 2501 Coit Road (75075)" and "Library Administration 2501 Coit Road