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Posted March 3, 2004 By Patricia Fusco     Feedback

Microsoft offers proof positive that the software maker is passionate about delivering affordable technologies to small businesses. In a new contest open to U.S. companies with fewer than 100 employees, $50K worth of new technologies could be yours.

Small businesses that have demonstrated success by leveraging computer technologies may be eligible to win $50,000 in computer software, hardware and services by entering Microsoft's "Realizing Business Potential" contest.

Chuck Sharp, marketing vice president for the Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA), a national non-profit small business technology advocate, said small- to medium-sized businesses have first hand knowledge of how new technologies can help their businesses grow and prosper.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for small businesses with less than 100 employees to be both recognized and rewarded for demonstrating how they use computer technology to drive the success and growth of their companies," Sharp said.

The award, which is a new category in Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur of The Year" annual awards program, is open to all U.S. and Puerto Rico-based small businesses that have been in operation for three or more years and whose owners are still involved in daily operations.

Lori Newman, director of marketing for Microsoft's U.S. small and mid-market solutions division, said the company is passionate about partnering with entrepreneurs to deliver affordable tools that help small businesses realize their full potential.

"We firmly believe in the spirit of entrepreneurship in America and our sponsorship of the new 'Realizing Business Potential' award is a reflection of that passion," Newman said.

Small businesses can nominate themselves or be nominated by someone associated with their companies. Candidates will be judged on their unique or interesting use of computer technology that benefits their company. Judges will also take into consideration company sales growth and community involvement.

Entries will be reviewed for information about how technology has helped increase employee efficiency beyond basic productivity, how technology helped create an unique market niche, and how technology built and maintained more profitable customer relationships.

Ernst & Young will announce 36 award winners at regional programs in June 2004. All regional award winners will be finalists for the national award, which will be presented at Palm Springs, Calif. in November 2004.

Regional award winners will receive a laptop computer and a $7,500 software grant from Microsoft. One national winner will also receive a $50,000 technology donation from Microsoft. This includes laptop and desktop computers, software and a cash grant. In addition, the national winner will be able to donate a technology award of equal value to the charity of its choice.

There are no entry fees for nominations. The entry submission deadline is April 2, 2004. Application forms are available online from Ernst & Young.

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