DETROIT — Michigan businesses can get free tools and resources to establish a Web site, find new customers and grow their businesses, when Google and its national and local partners launch “Michigan, Get Your Business Online” next week at events in Detroit and Kalamazoo.

The program is designed to help drive economic growth by providing an easy, fast way for Michigan businesses to get online. While 97 percent of Americans look online for local products and services, 59 percent of Michigan small businesses do not have a Web site or online presence.

Google is partnering with Intuit to provide easy-to-build Web sites, a customized domain name and Web hosting for one year. Participating Michigan businesses will also receive a listing on Google Places.

The events will be held:

* Tuesday, Oct. 18 and Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
* Friday, Oct. 21 at the Howard Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave., Kalamazoo, 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 to 3 p.m.

“Michigan’s small business owners know the Internet is important, but setting up a Web presence can seem complicated, expensive and time consuming,” said Mike Miller, head of Google’s Ann Arbor office. “We’re here to show Michigan businesses that it doesn’t have to be that way.”

Without an online presence, small businesses are virtually invisible to many potential customers, so this is an enormous economic opportunity for Michigan businesses. The program will be available online for a year.

“As a leading provider of small business solutions, we know how small businesses can grow from getting online,” said Ralph Matlack, group product manager at Intuit. “We want Michigan small businesses to use our websites to create a customized presence that represents their unique brands.”

Those who cannot attend the launch sessions can visit for more information.

“Every day more business owners realize that meeting face-to-face to collaborate is by far the best way to get things done,” said Mary Telesco, vice president of Meetup, an online social networking tool that helps members join groups based on common interests. Meetup is partnering with Google on the initiative.

“There are thousands of small business Meetup members helping each other succeed every day by connecting with one another, in-person,” Telesco said.

“Thanks to Google, small businesses in Michigan have a great opportunity to build or advance their business website and strategy for online marketing,” said Carol Lopucki, director of the Michigan Small Business Technology and Development Centers.

Michigan Get Your Business Online is a joint initiative by the following partners: Google, Intuit, Meetup, SCORE, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Centers, Small Business Association of Michigan, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Southwest Michigan First, Ann Arbor Spark, Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce, American-Arab Chamber of Commerce, Center for Empowerment and Economic Development, Focus: Hope, Michigan Non-Profit Association, Inforum, Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Medical Device Accelerator, Michigan Restaurant Association, TechTown, University of Michigan Business Engagement Center, and the Wayne State University Law School Small Business Clinic.

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