October in Rotary is Community Economic Development month. When I think of community economic development, I reminisce about growing up in Houston, Texas in the 1960’s and 70’s. What a vibrant town and economic juggernaut it was (and still is, I might add). I firmly believe Houston owed its economic success and vibrancy to several things. The first is Houston’s leaders didn’t get in your way in pursuing opportunities. 
A great example is the lack of zoning. Houston does not have zoning and has not had zoning – the leaders believed that highest and best use of property should dictate its use -not zoning. Secondly, Houston has long been a port town resulting in people from across our globe constantly being included in the economic mixing bowl. With these new and diverse people, new businesses, and new ways of doing things, innovation has constantly emerged. A wonderful byproduct of this constant immigration and inclusion has been Houston’s diverse culture where people from all over the world meshed and imprinted Houston with their unique, different ways of life, especially their foods. I do like a good meal and a varied diet I must admit. When I was a child, one of our families of friends was from South Louisiana and another was Hispanic. I started eating gumbo and enchiladas long before they became popular on this side of the Sabine and Rio Grande Rivers. Not only did I get to enjoy different foods but also people who didn’t talk like me, act like me, or look like me. Thirdly, I believe another principal reason for Houston’s economic success was the excellent, inexpensive, higher education that was available, mainly at the University of Houston (“U of H”) and Texas Southern University (“TSU”). Houston has and has had this constant need to fill jobs which required higher levels of education that U of H and TSU provided.  The U of H owed it’s start and continued success, in large part, to the philanthropy of Houstonians, mainly Roy and Lillie Cullen. Roy and Lillie also donated the land on which TSU sits. TSU is a historically black university and one of the largest black universities in our nation. If Roy and Lillie Cullen were not Rotarians, they certainly were Rotarians at heart. We as leaders can learn from the examples set by our neighbors to the south and I ask you to be mindful of these examples this month as we do our part to Serve to Change Lives by improving economic development in our own communities. Please do your part to ensure that those who follow us live in vibrant, strong, and successful communities.
Give the Gift of Rotary,
DG Mike