Microsoft and U.S. Department of Commerce Help Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses Unlock Potential

WASHINGTON — May 23, 2005 — Microsoft Corp., the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and other thought leaders are joining forces to unveil IT-based solutions aimed at helping small to medium women- and minority-owned enterprises — the nation’s fastest growing business segment — realize their business potential.

Microsoft and MBDA, and their associates in this effort, have formed the first Technology Partnership for Small Business Taskforce, an unprecedented advisory group of elite thought leaders from the technology industry, blue-chip community organizations and government municipalities that has been chartered with developing IT solutions that help demonstrate the benefits of technology products and services for women- and minority-owned businesses.

A 2004 national study by the Urban Institute suggested that the U.S. economy could capture up to $200 billion in additional revenue if minority and women business owners did a better job of integrating technology into their everyday business practices.

“We know that one of the fundamental keys to entrepreneurial success in the 21st century is the effective use of information technology,” said Ronald N. Langston, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency. “By decreasing the technology gap among these target populations, we can help enhance the business potential of women and minority business owners that will allow them to boost their bottom line, strengthen the U.S. economy and expand into global markets.”

U.S. Census data indicates that the number of firms owned by women is rising at twice the rate of all businesses, and minority-owned businesses are growing at four times that rate. Despite their growing strength and presence in the economy, women and minority business owners still have not had a fair opportunity to maximize their contributions to the nation’s revenues and jobs. “Technology has increased our efficiency as much as two hundredfold,” said Tracy Reese, designer and co-owner of T. R. Designs. “It certainly has meant everything in terms of how competitive we are. Put simply, we wouldn’t still be in business if it weren’t for our investment in technology.”

Recognizing the need to address the business divide, Microsoft teamed with the MBDA to convene the Taskforce. Members of the Taskforce are Cisco Systems Inc., the Hispanic Business Board of Economists, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), the Hispanic Federation, the National Urban League (NUL), SBC Communications, Small Business Camp, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and representatives from Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C., municipalities.

“As a Taskforce member and longtime supporter of programs to encourage technology enablement, SBC is proud to support the creation of solutions to bridge the technology gap affecting diversity-owned enterprises,” said Joan Kerr, Executive Director of Supplier Diversity Programs at SBC Communications Inc.

A white paper produced by the Taskforce outlines seven solutions that would help close the business technology gap by helping women and minority business owners utilize technologies such as e-mail, Web sites and other tools to expand their business. The first two solutions, the business seminars and online portal, developed in alliance with MBDA and WBENC, are already available to entrepreneurs. Susan Bari, president of the Women Business Enterprise National Council, said, “The solutions identified by the Taskforce provide a holistic approach to help women and minority business owners realize their full potential in our evolving economy.”

Business owners attending the seminars will benefit from hearing motivational speakers and business owners who can offer on-site instruction on the benefits and challenges of IT integration and utilization that aligns with their business size and industry. Attendees will receive hands-on experience that will result in a usable business solution, such as how to build a Web page. Attendees also will receive a DVD with pointers to resources such as the online portal, which gives business owners access to six modules of online training to help them increase their IT use.

The seminars will be available in seven areas: Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle, the Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. The seminars are free and open to the public upon registration.

“Microsoft is committed to evangelizing IT solutions that enable opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses,” said Alejandra Calatayud, area general manager for the Small and Midmarket Solutions & Partner (SMS&P) Group at Microsoft. “The Taskforce efforts contribute to a larger vision: that technology, by helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams, can help strengthen the American economy, capture lost revenue, and create more equal opportunities for all of us.”

About the Taskforce

The Technology Partnership for Small Business Taskforce is the first collaboration of an elite group of IT industry leaders, elected officials and other community organization representatives convened by Microsoft and the Minority Business Development Agency to address the disparity in technology adoption by minority- and women-owned businesses.

Additional information about the Taskforce, the white paper, and the seminars and online portal can be found at http://www.biztechconnect.org.

About MBDA

MBDA is the only federal agency created specifically to foster the establishment and growth of minority-owned businesses in America. Through its nationwide network of business development centers, MBDA provides business counseling and program services to assist minority-owned companies to grow and expand. MBDA actively coordinates and leverages public and private sector resources and alliances to support its mission. More information on MBDA’s services and the locations of business development centers can be found at wwww.mbda.gov.

About SBC Communications Inc.

SBC Communications Inc. is a Fortune 50 company whose subsidiaries, operating under the SBC brand, provide a full range of voice, data, networking, e-business, directory publishing and advertising, and related services to businesses, consumers and other telecommunications providers. SBC holds a 60 percent ownership interest in Cingular Wireless, which serves 50.4 million wireless customers. SBC companies provide high-speed DSL Internet access lines to more American consumers than any other provider and are among the nation’s leading providers of Internet services. SBC companies also offer satellite TV service. Additional information about SBC and SBC products and services is available at www.sbc.com.

About WBENC

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC, pronounced wee-bank), created in 1997, is dedicated to enhancing opportunities for women’s business enterprises in America’s major business markets. In partnership with women’s business organizations throughout the United States, WBENC provides access to a national standard of certification, with the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College an Executive Management Program for women business owners, hosts Women in Business: Sharing the Vision (the nation’s largest conference and business fair for certified WBEs and corporate supplier diversity and procurement executives), and provides information certified women’s businesses to purchasing managers through an Internet database – WBENClink.

About T. R. Designs

Designer Tracy Reese epitomizes “feminine chic” with her eponymous collection, Tracy Reese, and her fanciful line, plenty. Bright colors, unusual prints and intricate patterns define both collections, which have been fashion favorites since their inception. Both Tracy Reese and Plenty are sold nationwide to top department stores and specialty boutiques including Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Ron Herman and Scoop. She is also sold at select retailers throughout Europe and Asia. To see Trace Reese collections point your browser to www.tracyreese.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

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