Microsoft CEO brings grants to 2 non-profits

December 1, 2004

BY MICHAEL KRAUSS

Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer came to Chicago on Tuesday to talk about innovation, and he backed up his rallying cry with $360,000 in grants to two Chicago area non-profits to enable underserved local communities to take advantage of state-of-the-art technology.

Speaking before a sell-out crowd of nearly 800 at the Executives' Club of Chicago, Ballmer announced a $126,000 grant of cash and software will go to Chicago's IT Resource Center, which provides tech support for non-profit organizations, and a $234,000 grant of software to the Chicago Urban League.

Microsoft has donated more than $14 million in cash and software to Chicago area not-for-profit institutions since 2002. Over the past two years, Microsoft has supported more than 900 not-for-profits across Illinois.

"We have a leadership position in the industry which brings with it some responsibilities," Ballmer said in an interview before his speech. "No one company, no one government, no one set of public-private partnerships will eliminate the digital divide. People can make incremental contributions. We've got to make a contribution to both show the way and prime the pump to encourage others to get involved."

"It's a wonderful investment in Chicago," said Deborah Strauss, executive director of the IT Resource Center. "We feel fortunate to be singled out, because these are very competitive grants across the world."

The grant to the IT Resource Center will fund its Community Technology Center Accelerator program and the hiring of community technology assistants in up to eight neighborhood technology centers, providing training and support to non-profits serving economically challenged neighborhoods across the Chicago area.

"Microsoft's supporting these programs gives our community a real advantage. To get into the work force you need a strong background in Microsoft Office," said Kenneth Serrano, a technology assistant with the Hispanic Housing Development Corp. in Logan Square. His center provides computer-based education programs for adults seeking to pass the GED.

"We give people confidence they can learn and understand it's never too late," said Serrano.

The grant to the Chicago Urban League will allow the organization to upgrade its technology infrastructure and expand its technology training programs at its free community technology center.

Ballmer also came to Chicago Tuesday night with a clear message for CEOs and those aspiring to lead organizations: Innovation is back, because it is a critical enabler of success.

In a pragmatic and practical presentation before the Executives' Club, Ballmer said, "Every business really does need to innovate to thrive. How do you maintain, sustain and invest in a culture of innovation? Software is pretty pure on this. Software doesn't get consumed. It doesn't wear out. You either innovate or you die."

Michael Krauss writes about technology and innovation for the Sun-Times.

 

 ©2004 Marion Consulting Partners