Microsoft invests in community partnerships

Microsoft, one of the most well-known brands in the world, is looking to increase its presence in Las Vegas.

And one way the computer and software giant is looking to expand its footprint in Southern Nevada is through community partnerships.

Everyone knows about Microsoft’s computer, gaming, smartphones, and its computing programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook, but the company wants local residents to recognize Microsoft for its efforts to improve the community.

J.P. Westwood, Microsoft’s general manager of its Desert Mountain District overseeing Las Vegas, said these efforts are not aimed at increasing business. Instead, Microsoft works with nonprofit groups, youth and arts programs to make a better community and work environment.

In 2013, Microsoft donated more than $1 million and more than 1,000 volunteer hours from its employees in Las Vegas.

“One thing Microsoft is very big on is citizenship and community,” Westwood said. “We do a lot in the marketplaces we serve. We’ll continue to strive and participate in local nonprofits such as Boys and Girls Clubs and other youth programs. Volunteering is a part of our history and heritage dating back to the early years of Microsoft.”

Microsoft made sizable software and hardware contributions to several local organizations when it opened its store in the Fashion Show mall Nov. 14.

Opportunity Village received $421,341 in donations; Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada received $235,126; The Smith Center for the Performing Arts received $203,731, and Discovery Children’s Museum got $195,351, according to Microsoft.

As part of the store’s opening festivities, The Smith Center, Discovery Children’s Museum and Opportunity Village also received a $9,000 grant each for hardware purchases, while the Boys and Girls Club received a $3,000 grant.

Opportunity Village is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping people with severe intellectual and related disabilities through vocational training, community employment, day services, advocacy, arts and social recreation. The training helps clients find friends, realize career paths and seek independence.

“We were very excited. We got to go down to their grand opening and they gave us a big check. It was very exciting,” said Kathy Craft, information technology manager for Opportunity Village. “With the $9,000, we went down and bought some computers. With the $400,000 we bought software, such as Exchange and Microsoft Word, Office and other software programs for our servers. We never would have been able to get all that without their donation.”

The computers and software is for Opportunity Village’s office staff and clients to train on computers and computer programs, Craft said.

Microsoft’s donation to the Discovery Children’s Museum, the only museum designed for children in Southern Nevada, will strengthen its infrastructure and help the Southern Nevada community. The programming is integral to Las Vegas’ efforts to promote the development of museums and cultural institutions as part of its downtown revitalization efforts, said Denyce Tuller, the museum’s director of marketing and public relations.

The donations will provide the needed technological foundation to keep it as a cultural leader in helping transform the city into a community full of educational and cultural opportunities for Las Vegas’ 2 million residents and 40 million annual tourists, she added.

“The Microsoft grant helps the museum live its mission of providing ‘a vibrant and engaging experience, through exhibits and programs, where children from economically and culturally diverse backgrounds actively participate in playful learning experiences that ignite a love of lifelong learning’ by enhancing the technology infrastructure within its brand-new 58,000-square-foot building,” Tuller said.

Microsoft’s store, which started out as kiosk in the mall, is performing well, Westwood said. It employs 50 people and Microsoft has 12 staff members who sell resources to local businesses

Local companies, including many of the large casinos on the Strip, use Microsoft’s software programs, computers, touchscreen devices and smartphones. Microsoft is developing applications for its more popular programs by enabling them through the Enterprise Mobility Suite, which is Microsoft’s updated cloud services and mobile scenarios.

Microsoft’s presence can also be felt on the gaming floors as the computer giant partners with gaming technology developers such as Bally’s and IGT to keep the computer games and slot machines operating at peak efficiency.

“We have a pretty good sized footprint in Las Vegas, and it’s a market we continue to invest in,” Westwood said.

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