Kyle Sheldon was named president and CEO of Partnership Lake Houston in January following the departure of former President and CEO Lance LaCour.

The Partnership—which serves as a chamber of commerce and economic development firm for the Humble, Kingwood and Atascocita area—was initially established in April 1923.

In an interview with Community Impact, Sheldon—who had spent most of his career in the energy industry—shared some insights on how he transitioned to his new role with Partnership Lake Houston and what the nonprofit offers to local businesses and businesses seeking to relocate to the area.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me a little bit about your career prior to joining Partnership Lake Houston?

I spent the early part of my career working in the hospitality and retail industries. I feel all young people should have the opportunity to experience working in those sectors. It was priceless in helping me solidify my core values—all the values that were an integral part of my upbringing. Seeing them firsthand helped solidify the type of leader I wanted to be in the future. Getting to witness the fruits of work ethic, customer service, patience and gratitude is not something that can be taught. From there, I transitioned into corporate America where the bulk of my professional career was spent contributing to the development of international sales organizations in the energy industry. Those 12-plus years helped me to understand the importance of servant leadership and the value of active listening. Those two concepts have been the differentiators to my success over the years.

How did you end up becoming involved with Partnership Lake Houston?

Honestly, it was a God thing. My amazing wife was working as a front-line health care provider when [the] COVID[-19 pandemic] became a thing. Between COVID and the volatility of the energy industry, I had the privilege to step into a foreign role as homeschool teacher/family survivalist. I learned that building international sales organizations was much easier than maintaining a household while trying to teach kindergarten curriculum. Patience took on a whole new meaning, and my level of respect for all the stay-at-home parents out there achieved new heights. During those years, I worked as a consultant, but that wasn’t my calling. Feeling like I was meant to do more, I continued to search for a more permanent position. To be honest, I don’t think I knew my calling until I started the interview process to join Partnership Lake Houston. To say God has a plan is the understatement of a lifetime. I could not have dreamed of a job more fulfilling. Getting to serve the community we grew up in and where we chose to raise our children is an honor. I feel blessed to be in this position, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to do what I do on a daily basis.

Have you been able to take anything away from your previous jobs that has helped you in your new role?

All life experiences generate growth opportunities. Some things you choose not to repeat, but the character built getting back up and persevering cannot be replaced. Dealing with adversity and learning from those situations can be one of the greatest assets to your development as a leader. Being coachable is irreplaceable. Learning to be a team player is not something that can easily be taught. Once you recognize that people are the most valuable asset of any organization, you can learn to properly value all levels of coaching. Being open to feedback from superiors, co-workers and direct reports helps foster a true team atmosphere focused on growth. ... My most important takeaway [was] the value of company culture. Does management recognize their responsibility to best equip their team to serve the customers? Understanding that managers work for their employees and not the other way around is one of the most important things to look for in an organization. Investing in the development of your team to the point that other organizations want to hire them while treating them well enough that they choose to stay is the difference between good and great organizations.

From an economic development standpoint, what are the biggest needs within Partnership Lake Houston's coverage area?

We are a membership-funded organization. We heavily rely on our local businesses to be engaged with community needs and ongoings in our area. That is an incredible benefit to make their voice heard for all the businesses in our service area. They are a valued part of the community. Inversely, when looking at our service area, we lack some funding mechanisms, such as management districts, tax dollars or incentive programs. We have amazing partnerships with both the city of Humble and Generation Park that allow us to compete with incentives when quoting projects that qualify within their footprints. They can provide competitive bids due to the ability of Generation Park’s management district and the opportunity for the city of Humble to provide incentives. Outside of those two areas, incentives become more difficult to offer. Our largest hurdle tends to be a lack of large, move-in-ready facilities. Generation Park is one of the few developments continuing to invest in the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. Luckily with our access to the Port [of Houston], two airports and rail proximity, we continue to remain a destination of choice for many businesses looking to establish or relocate headquarters. We are continually working to improve our offerings to entice businesses of preferred industry to our area. We are in an incredible position geographically in the center of the country with ease of access to all modes of shipping and transport.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your time spent to date at Lake Houston Partnership?

People are my passion. Working with people to help them find purpose in who they are and what they do motivates me to get out of bed in the mornings. Having an opportunity to work alongside the leaders of the community that I grew up in has been the most rewarding career move that I didn’t know I needed. I call this my post-COVID career, but in reality, this is so much more than a job. It is an opportunity to serve the community that helped shape me as an individual mentally, spiritually and professionally. I love serving here. The saying couldn’t be truer that "If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life." I relish the conversations I get to have daily with business owners, entrepreneurs, students and residents. Seeing members of the community motivated to make a difference is uplifting and inspiring. In hopes of leaving your readers encouraged, I will end with one of my favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.”