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Local leaders champion a ‘region of inclusion’ heading into July Special Olympics USA Games | Stories

Puget Sound employers step up to contribute millions of dollars in donations for Games, join other community leaders to focus on inclusive hiring

REDMOND, Wash. — May 30, 2018 — On Wednesday at a forum hosted by Microsoft Corp. focused on inclusive hiring and economic opportunity in Puget Sound, 2018 Special Olympics USA Games is announcing more than $9 million in cash and in-kind donations from regional businesses in support of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, to be held in Seattle July 1–6, 2018. Earlier this year state and local lawmakers contributed an additional $3.4 million in support, further demonstrating our region’s commitment to showcasing the power of inclusion.

The “Creating a Region of Inclusion” forum speakers include Gov. Jay Inslee, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, retired U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, Challenge Seattle CEO and former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce, Microsoft President Brad Smith, and 2018 Special Olympics USA Games President and CEO Beth Knox. The focus of the discussion centers on ways to make significant new progress in developing job and career opportunities to create a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture.

The 2018 Special Olympics USA Games will feature more than 4,000 athletes and coaches who will compete in 14 Olympic-type team and individual sports, cheered on by tens of thousands of volunteers and spectators.

Microsoft is the Premier Partner of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. Since 2014 Microsoft has partnered with Special Olympics, using cloud-based data management to empower the organization and its athletes through technology on and off the field, while supporting the organization’s efforts to build a more inclusive global community.

The Greater Seattle business community collectively contributed over $7 million in cash support, plus an additional $2 million in value of in-kind product and services to help run the USA Games. In addition to financial contributions, USA Games partners have engaged their employees to take on more than 10,000 shifts, including Microsoft which has filled nearly 2,000 volunteer shifts. Volunteers are still welcome in support positions or as Fans in the Stands to cheer on athletes at competitions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double that of people without disabilities. To address the employment gap locally, Microsoft will host an Inclusive Hiring Job Fair with 16 local employers on May 31, 1:45–4 p.m. PDT. The job fair is open to the public, and candidates can meet with recruiters, get help creating resumes, and gain insight into employment opportunities in technology, retail, transportation, consulting, telecommunications and customer service. In addition, LinkedIn staff will be onsite to help attendees create and enhance LinkedIn profiles, provide tips for successful job searches and offer free professional headshot photos.

Employers participating in the summit include Accenture, Alaska Airlines, Amazon, AT&T, Department of Services for the Blind, EY, Facebook, The Lighthouse for the Blind Inc., LinkedIn, Microsoft, Starbucks, T-Mobile, VR-Net and the Washington State Department of Corrections. More information about the Inclusive Job Fair, hosted at the Microsoft Conference Center, can be found here.

Special Olympics USA Games CEO Beth Knox also announced a job fair for Special Olympics athletes and their families, to be held in July during the Games. The Special Olympics hiring fair will provide a venue for athletes and their families to discuss career opportunities and options with businesses including Bank of America, Microsoft and Starbucks.

Tickets are available for the opening ceremonies July 1 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, where spectators and volunteers from local businesses will cheer on the athletes in a citywide celebration of inclusion.


Jay Inslee, Governor, Washington

“The state of Washington has a proud history of inclusivity, tolerance and compassion for all residents. Our diversity of people and cultures is a critical part of who we are, both as a state and as a nation. The pride, joy and determination of Special Olympics athletes embody that spirit,” said Washington Gov. Inslee. “I am proud to welcome athletes, their coaches and families to the 2018 Games.”

Brad Smith, President, Microsoft

“For more than five decades, the Special Olympics USA Games has made a huge difference in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “As employers, one important issue that we can help address, in the spirit of these Games, is to create and encourage inclusive hiring practices that will help reduce the unemployment rate in this community.”

Beth Knox, CEO, Special Olympics USA Games

“There are still opportunities for more businesses to show their support through contributions, Opening Ceremony ticket sales or providing in-kind support,” said Beth Knox, Special Olympics USA Games CEO. “Our athletes and families are thrilled to be a part of it.”

Tom Harkin, U.S. Senator (Retired), Iowa

“I commend Microsoft for its leadership in creating a ‘region of inclusion’ for the Special Olympics USA Games this summer in Seattle,” said Sen. Tom Harkin. “This sets the stage for a ‘global inclusion,’ especially in employment. Lead On!”

Christine Gregoire, Challenge Seattle CEO and Former Governor, Washington

“We’re thrilled to support the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games and welcome athletes from around the nation to the Seattle region,” said Challenge Seattle CEO and former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire. “Here, we embrace diversity, innovation and creativity — fueling dreams and changing the world.”

Ana Mari Cauce, President, University of Washington

“It’s truly exciting to see our region have real conversations about empowerment,” said Ana Mari Cauce, president, University of Washington. “From groundbreaking research to internships for people on the autism spectrum, the UW is committed to inclusive education and career pathways for people with disabilities, and we are honored to host the Special Olympics hiring fair in July.”

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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Microsoft expansion is a welcome boost to Puget Sound region

Microsoft’s breathtaking expansion project affirms the Puget Sound region’s capacity for continued growth and reinvention.

The company announced Wednesday a multibillion expansion that includes 18 new buildings, fields and parking on its main Redmond campus east of Highway 520.

This should not be taken for granted.

Cities, states and nations are desperate for this sort of economic development, especially by a leading company in a clean industry. Heads of state plead for Microsoft to open a single office and could not imagine the company building a small city’s worth.

Microsoft will add the capacity for 8,000 additional employees on its campus, although much of the new space may be filled by people now working in offices that Microsoft currently leases in Bellevue.

The next challenge for the Eastside and the rest of the Puget Sound region will be to nurture other companies to grow into the next giants and continue attracting other companies.

Comparisons are inevitable with Amazon’s building spree in Seattle.

One way to look at it is to marvel at how both Microsoft and Amazon continue to innovate and sustain their growth by creating new, multibillion-dollar businesses.

Microsoft’s construction project is a physical manifestation of this process.

As it continues its transition into a provider of online services, Microsoft is building more open and expansive offices. They’ll replace the formerly futuristic, X-shaped buildings where it produced software that dominated the personal-computer era.

It’s also enlightening to look at Amazon’s decision to open a second headquarters elsewhere.

That happened in part because of concerns about the business climate in Seattle proper, including the city’s poor job planning for growth that was clearly coming when Amazon submitted its development proposals.

Microsoft also brought disruption and community transformation, particularly when it surged in the 1990s.

Eastside officials learned from this experience. Microsoft’s more recent expansions, over the last decade, were more easily absorbed because of thoughtful planning and regional coordination. That includes road, highway and transit expansion concurrent with growth and careful placement of new housing density within urban hubs.

Such efforts are now paying off. Redmond has infrastructure and housing capacity in place or in process for all the potential growth Microsoft’s new project will generate. Construction of the 18 new buildings is expected to finish around the same time a light-rail station is scheduled to open at its campus in 2023.

The region is blessed to have such companies. They create opportunity and employment for residents and newcomers attracted by their dynamism and success creating world-changing products.

With good infrastructure and gleaming campuses on both sides of Lake Washington, municipal boundaries become less important and all meld into the Greater Seattle region.