Donation supports biz centers

SBA One Stop Capital Shops

Microsoft Corp. is donating $700,000 worth of software applications and training that individuals looking to start or expand a business can use at Small Business Administration resource centers nationwide.

Microsoft will donate its Office XP, Publisher 2002, FrontPage 2002, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2002 Server and Small Business Server 2000 software to two series of SBA small business centers, according to the agency.

SBA's One-Stop Capital Shops, serving 22 economically distressed areas in partnership with local communities, and its Business Information Centers, which provide technical and in-person assistance at more than 70 locations, will receive the software.

The centers provide free on-site counseling, training courses and workshops to small-business clients in areas such as planning, marketing and sales, government contracting, product expansion and exporting. The centers also offer research materials, including business and industry publications, CD-ROMs and databases.

John Bebris, deputy associate administrator for business and community initiatives, said the donation will enable business owners or those considering starting businesses to test out software tools that could help them run their businesses.

In turn, Microsoft gets to showcase some of its products to potential buyers, he said. The company was one of several original partners that SBA worked with when establishing its business center program in 1992, he said.

"This is a product line that I truly believe they have targeted, from a design level, for the small business market," Bebris said.

The SBA plans to deploy the new software at its One-Stop Capital Shops first, aiming to complete that work by the end of August, Bebris said. By the end of October, all of the Business Information Centers should have the products, and all center managers should be prepared to demonstrate them to small business clients, he said.

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