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Microsoft CEO condemns immigrant ban

February 8, 2017


Detroit — The CEO of Microsoft Corp. and the billionaire owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Inc. took subtle swipes during a downtown Wednesday chat at the immigration ban proposed by President Trump.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, born in India, began his conversation with Dan Gilbert by stating he was a product of “American ingenuity” and “American enlightened immigration policy.” The two held a half-hour talk in front of a crowd of downtown tech workers, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne State University M. Roy Wilson.

Nadella, who heads of one of the largest tech companies in the world, added: “Clearly, national security is a high priority, but, at the same time you got to create policy that allow us to continue to be the place where the best and brightest will come, as well as show our humanity. It’s not just about high skill immigration. American has been a beacon of hope far beyond that.”

The crowd applauded. Gilbert’s statement was much more brief, saying that immigration policy “shouldn’t be a broad brush.”

Nadella was in Detroit less than one week after Microsoft announced it will open a downtown Detroit office in the One Campus Martius building early next year, moving a regional technology center from Southfield, where it had been located for 30 years.

“We want to do a lot of hackathons there,” Nadella said of the Detroit space. He was referring to the events, that can last for days, in which groups of people gather to engage in collaborative computer programming.

The Michigan Microsoft Technology Center will be on the 10th floor of the Campus Martius building, formerly known as the Compuware building, in the heart of the central business district. The building is co-owned by an entity affiliated with Gilbert. Microsoft will occupy more than 40,000 square feet. About 200 “remote employees,” who are mainly in sales, will have mobile offices in the Detroit space.

Gilbert and Nadella said the Microsoft move is more evidence Detroit aims to become a growing tech hub. Both cited the rising presence of “car tech” and “fintech,” which refers to firms that focus on innovations for business in the financial sector, ranging from consumer loans to insurance firms.

“The revitalization of Detroit is in some sense (due) to the changing landscape in the auto industry,” Nadella said. The technology embedded in automobiles now and in the near future is “fundamentally going to be so different that what we are used to” said Nadella “It’s the new computer or new data center. It’s going to have more chips in it, an ASIC and transistors, than anything involved in a computer.”

Gilbert said he and others are working hard to continue make Detroit a regional tech center. “We have a grand vision,” he said.