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Partners Step Up for Katrina Relief Effort

Microsoft has been pushing the idea of partners helping other partners for some time now, as has the independent International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP). To date, the talk has been about companies helping each other in serving the needs of customers, but in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the idea is taking on an entirely new meaning.

IAMCP chapters in Texas, including Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, along with Little Rock, Ark., are all raising money and collecting other resources to help out hurricane victims. Much of the money is going directly to the IAMCP chapter formed just over a month ago in Louisiana, which is dispersing funds directly to displaced businesses and their employees, many of them IAMCP members.

"We’re doing everything we can, from helping our partners get some of their folks employed elsewhere, to giving them basic things like water, diapers, baby food, those types of things," says Jamie Armanini, president of the Louisiana IAMCP chapter and vice president of business development at Momentum, a Gold Certified Partner.

Momentum’s 40 employees were roughly evenly split between two offices, one in Baton Rouge, La. and the other across from the Superdome in New Orleans. "The first week was really hit and miss. We had several New Orleans employees who we couldn’t account for," Armanini says. "I’m happy to say we have now accounted for everyone but we do have several homeless or displaced employees that have moved to Baton Rouge and surrounding areas and we’re working hard to try to get them temporary housing."

That’s a tall order, given that Baton Rouge’s normal population of about 400,000 has swelled to 1.2 million in the wake of Katrina. "There’s not one house for sale, not one apartment for rent," she says. So far, the best she’s been able to do is find a bed and breakfast 45 minutes north of Baton Rouge where she’s temporarily housing a couple of her employees. She has about 15 displaced employees in all, plus their families.

Already, other IAMCP chapters have raised about $18,000 and handed it over to the Louisiana chapter, according to Bill Breslin, U.S. IAMCP president and director at Insource Technology Corp. in Houston. "Local chapters are all directly influenced," he says. "The Houston, Austin and Dallas areas all had evacuation camps set up to take care of these folks, so it was in your face for them."

Microsoft is also in on the relief effort. Armanini worked with Charlie Ramirez, the area partner community manager, to get several hundred full versions and free 120-day licenses for software packages to help get small businesses up and running again. Microsoft also funded an ad in the local paper to let businesses know to contact Armanini for help, and will be sponsoring a radio ad for the same purpose.

The software and financial resources are "open and available to any business trying to relocate to Baton Rouge, and IAMCP partners and customers they might be working with," she says. "We’re ready to help in any way we can, with software, hardware, services, whatever."

The relief effort is far from over. Ramirez says the goal is to raise at least $50,000 through various fund-raising efforts. The Houston IAMCP chapter, for example, is co-sponsoring with Microsoft a fund-raising barbeque event this Saturday (see www.houstonhelpfest.org for details). Andrew Levi, president of the Dallas IAMCP chapter, says his group is involved with Microsoft in a drive to collect food, clothes and toys, and will commit a percentage of its already planned golf tournament to the relief effort.

Gregory Gonzales, president of the Austin IAMCP chapter, says his board has voted to match up to $3,500 in donations from individual member companies (although, truth be told, the group has already donated the full figure). The Austin chapter is also working with its members and with Microsoft to find jobs for any displaced employees of other companies, he says.

Breslin says any IAMCP member -- or indeed, any Microsoft partner -- can contact him (Bill.Breslin@insource.com) if they’re interested in getting in on the relief effort. The Microsoft South Central region has also established a Web site (http://groups.msn.com/MSSCAPartnerCommunity) with information on the effort, including a bank account where donations can be sent.

Partners helping partners -- that’s the IAMCP way. As Microsoft’s Ramirez says, "The line between partners and friends sometimes blurs for us down here, especially if they are IAMCP partners."

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at paul@pdedit.com.

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