On Wednesday, May 16th, Neighborhood Centers Inc. hosted a very special guest, the Brookings Institution.

View this email in your browser if picture does not directly link to video.The Brookings Institution is one of the nation's leading and oldest think tanks, researching and educating on issues of economic development and metropolitan policy. Their mission of "strengthening American democracy" and "fostering the economic and social welfare" for all Americans makes them the perfect partner for Neighborhood Centers. While the Institution's visit and the subsequent symposium were serious in tone, there was a very real excitement in the air as the discussion centered around what makes Houston "work," and how it can continue to work in the future.

Neighborhood Centers Tour

On Tuesday, May 15, Neighborhood Centers toured guests of the Brookings Institution through Pasadena and the Gulfton Promise Neighborhood. The tour included stops at both our Cleveland-Ripley and Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Centers, where Brookings was able to see our community centers in action and gain a better understanding of how Neighborhood Centers engages communities. The tour and discussions explored the demographic and economic changes of the past 20 years, as well as what direction that we, as a community, are moving.

View this email in your browser if picture does not directly link to video.Neighborhood Centers Symposium featuring The Brookings Institution

The next day, more than 80 participants gathered at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University for the symposium: "Tipping The Scale: Houston and the Next Economy." Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III provided the introduction for the symposium via video, after which Gina Luna, chairman of the Houston region and CEO-Middle Market Banking with JPMorgan Chase, introduced the speakers. Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brookings Institution and founding director of their Metropolitan Policy Program, provided a fascinating keynote speech on what makes the U.S. economy move, where it has been and where it is heading, paying special attention to what makes Houston a unique leader in the global economy.

Symposium PresentationsJohn Hofmeister and Bruce Katz

Following Katz, John Hofmeister, former U.S. president of Shell Oil and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy, joined our very own President and CEO, Angela Blanchard, in a discussion that focused on the strengths and opportunities that exist in our great city of Houston. Pride in Houston was easy to see as the two panelists reflected on what makes this city strong and the role that Neighborhood Centers has had in shaping the city.

The symposium continued with dynamic speeches by Laura Spanjian, director of sustainability in the office of Mayor Annise Parker, and Dr. Laura Murillo, president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Since Houston is the energy capital of the United States, Spanjian emphasized the importance of 21st century thinking as the world shifts to sustainable energy. Murillo spoke to the audience about the importance of embracing diversity, specifically noting the increase in businesses run by Hispanic women and the positive impact that will have on the future of our nation. Chairman of the Neighborhood Centers Inc Board of Directors, David Chaumette, closed the symposium, highlighting the work Neighborhood Centers has done, and all the work we have ahead of us.

Looking Ahead

While each of these talks focused on a different aspect of metropolitan planning, all of them came together to emphasize Houston’s crucial role in today’s world. Houston is growing quickly and already the most diverse city in the nation, bringing a unique set of challenges. But other cities are following Houston’s footsteps and will one day also face these same issues. Our great city can serve as a role model for them.

Neighborhood Centers wants to ensure that Houston has the tools to succeed, which is why we held the symposium. No matter what role you play, it is only with your involvement that Neighborhood Centers is able to make amazing things happen. As Murillo told the audience Wednesday, “At the end of the day, we cannot do anything alone.”

If you have questions about the symposium or would like to become more involved in shaping Houston’s economic future, contact