$2M Microsoft gift supports Appalachian workforce

By The Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Nonprofit groups in the 13 Appalachian states can share a $2 million software donation from Microsoft aimed at training the region’s work force to compete in an economy driven by knowledge and technology.

The Appalachian Regional Commission announced Microsoft’s second economic-development donation to the region in six years Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Senators from two states that have already received grants, West Virginia and Mississippi, were on hand for the event.

“As we look for solutions to help people find work, lack of education remains a barrier for many,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. “A person looking for a job is much more likely to be successful if they have the labor skills that meet employers’ needs.”

Each state can get up to $150,000 in software. Any nonprofit organization can apply for the Microsoft grants, but ARC said it will focus on groups that provide technology training and workforce development.

Two grants have already been made to the Future Generations Graduate School in West Virginia and the CREATE Foundation in Mississippi.

The CREATE Foundation will use the money to improve its workforce development program and manage charitable contributions.

Future Generations will use the money to equip community computer centers with $70,000 worth of new software. It has centers at volunteer fire stations in 28 counties, thanks to a previous $4.4 million federal stimulus grant.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who has pushed to expand broadband access for years, called current software “absolutely essential” in today’s economy.

Future Generations will also work with Mission West Virginia, which used a 2005 grant from Microsoft to put computer centers in churches across the state.