Microsoft Continues to Expand Hurricane Relief Efforts with Help for Small Businesses
In the weeks and months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast, Microsoft was among the many companies that rallied to help victims and provide dedicated support to the rebuilding of New Orleans and other flood-ravaged areas along the Gulf Coast. Among those impacted by the travesty were more than 125,000 small- and mid-sized businesses.
Two years later, as the nation observes the second anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Microsoft’s efforts to help undo the damage continue by providing assistance to local small businesses. Today, at the 2007 Hope & Recovery Summit in New Orleans, Microsoft announced it will provide additional financial relief for small businesses affected by the natural disasters. Working with the state of Louisiana and the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC), Microsoft will provide a year of licensing at no charge for Microsoft software purchased by affected small businesses. Those who have sought assistance through the LSBDC will be eligible for this benefit, which offers a financial break for entrepreneurs rebuilding and growing their business.
“Microsoft was proud to play a role in helping the people of the Gulf Coast rebuild following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and we are committed to contributing to the ongoing community recovery efforts,” says Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. “In particular, we believe very strongly that small businesses are a vital engine of economic growth and opportunity, and we will continue to support small business owners in Louisiana as they work to rebuild and revive their communities.”
License Relief Program Benefits Large, Small Businesses
Small businesses affected by the hurricanes are eligible to qualify for the one-year licensing program at no charge, which is slated to begin in September. When they sign up for assistance through the LSBDC, they can purchase licenses for Microsoft software with payments spread over three years, including the popular Windows and Office products, through any authorized Microsoft reseller. Eligible business owners can then bring the first year’s invoice to any LSBDC for the first year’s amount to be paid for by Microsoft through its Open Value Licensing Program, allowing entrepreneurs the budget they need to get their business processes running again.
For the typical small business of 50 employees, with 25 PCs licensing Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system suite of programs, that year of licensing at no charge could save the organization as much as US$12,050.
Recognizing the significance of small businesses within local economic recovery, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., worked with Microsoft and the LSBDC to put this software licensing program in place.
“This novel approach reflects just one good way big business can step up and use its might to help an entire region get back on its feet, and I commend and thank Microsoft for its leadership,” Landrieu says. “This is made even stronger by their smart partnership with Louisiana’s Small Business Development Centers, who under Mary Lynn Wilkerson’s leadership have been a tremendously helpful guiding hand to thousands of businesses working to recover.”
The Open Value program is designed for businesses who want predictable software costs and simplified license management. It enables an organization’s assets to grow with the business and also comes with Software Assurance, Microsoft’s comprehensive software maintenance program. Through Software Assurance, small businesses can gain access to a range of benefits designed to help them get back on their feet, including home-use licenses of Microsoft Office, deployment planning assistance, training for IT staff as well as end-users, access to phone and Web support, and cold back-up server licenses as they shore up their infrastructure against future disasters.
Although participating small businesses will be accountable for the remaining two years of payments, business owners can continue to take advantage of affordable and flexible plans. Microsoft Financing maps payments to a business’ specific situation and to how businesses use their solutions.
“Technology is critical to the success of a small business,” says Mary Lynn Wilkerson, state director of the LSBDC, a partnership program supported by the Small Business Administration, Louisiana Economic Development, and the host universities for the state’s nine service centers. “It allows Louisiana businesses to develop customers worldwide.”
The LSBDC offers business consulting at no charge and low-cost training for small business owners and potential owners statewide. In October, the LSBDC will offer business training on Microsoft products with topics ranging from e-commerce to small business accounting. Since Hurricane Katrina, LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region has counseled nearly 2,600 small business owners.
Continued Commitment to Gulf Coast Recovery
The Software License Relief Program builds on Microsoft’s previous support for the post-hurricane recovery efforts. Efforts and donations, large and small, began immediately after Katrina’s wrath subsided two years ago.
Microsoft and its employees got involved immediately, and many remained involved long after the storm waters receded. A prime example: KatrinaSafe.org, the online tool built by Microsoft that helped more than 340,000 displaced residents across Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Mississippi to find and re-connect with their family and friends for flood victims. Microsoft continued making improvements to the tool after the 2005 hurricane season ended. Now, the Red Cross is equipped with a state-of-the-art tool ready for immediate deployment during hurricane seasons.
This Web site, now known as Safe and Well, enables people to search for information about family members or for survivors to post information about their location and physical condition, all in a manner that complies with privacy and child-protection laws. People are also able to register by phone if Internet access isn’t readily available.
In addition to its work on the Web site, Microsoft has helped the Red Cross and other partners improve their computer systems and other technology, both in their national headquarters and in their chapters.
More than $11 million in cash and technology donated by Microsoft during the first year after the hurricanes included donations to the American Red Cross, Governor’s Funds in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Alabama, and America’s Second Harvest. Several months after the initial crisis, Microsoft continued to make investments of $1 million to organizations involved in the rebuilding the region and assisting evacuees.
In February, Ballmer announced an additional $1.7 million in grants to establish or rebuild community technology centers destroyed by Katrina, which are also considered key catalysts for the economic renewal of the region. By improving the technology skills of the local workforce, the company hopes to advance economic opportunities for individuals and the local communities. A $425,000 grant was made to the Greater New Orleans Economic Development Foundation to workforce IT skills training programs like those coordinated through Delgado Community College. Other grant recipients include the Joy Corporation, the Houston Urban League, Technology for All, Xavier University, the United Negro College Fund, and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund. Recipients receive cash, software and specialized curriculum developed by Microsoft.
The commitment and expertise of Microsoft employees, working in collaboration with the Red Cross, carried the day, says Microsoft CIO Ron Markezich: “Individuals and teams across the company devoted themselves to responding to Katrina, sometimes working through the night or involving friends and family to complete a project for the relief efforts.”
“Steps like these are more than just good corporate commitment to their communities, they are good business,” says Landrieu. “Microsoft has recognized that the businesses that survive disaster today are the successful customers of tomorrow. I hope their leadership inspires other companies to take similar proactive steps to help their customers rebuild their businesses when disaster strikes.”
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