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U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch Present the Second Annual National Business Plan Competition & Winners.

NEW YORK -- Awarding $25,000 in Cash Prizes; With Special Guest New York City Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott

Teams of aspiring young business managers from public high schools across the country are competing to win $25,000 in prizes and business development funds provided by Merrill Lynch, through the U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch National Business Plan Competition. The competition kicked off Wednesday in New York City at Baruch College with two days of business plan presentations from 15 teams, and culminates with an announcement of the winners today at the Virtual Enterprises, International Trade Fair.

Virtual Enterprises is a simulated business environment where students "trade" with their peers via e-commerce strategies through a worldwide network of over 4,000 virtual businesses in more than 30 countries. The U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch National Business Plan Competition is the first-ever national initiative for the U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises represented by W!SE (Working In Support of Education), an educational not-for-profit focused on financial and entrepreneurship education.

Winning teams of the National Competition will be announced at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony of the Virtual Enterprises, International Trade Fair at the 69th Regiment Armory today, featuring New York City Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott, Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President Jason Wright, and Director Iris Blanc, Virtual Enterprises, International. This annual virtual trade fair, an event of the New York Department of Education, will be attended by 2,500 people, including student teams from the US, Canada, Romania, Bulgaria, Hong Kong, and Austria.

"New York City is proud to host the next generation of business leaders and visionaries," said Deputy Mayor for Education and Community Development Dennis Walcott. "I commend Virtual Enterprises, Merrill Lynch, and W!SE for their commitment to helping kids develop the skills necessary to succeed in their careers and their lives. I wish all the students participating in this competition the very best of luck."

The U.S. Network of Virtual Enterprises & Merrill Lynch National Business Plan Competition offers students the opportunity to participate in an exciting learning experience that inspires innovative thinking and paves the way for the creation of new business ideas and solutions. It also connects them to Merrill Lynch volunteers, who are committed to helping young people of all backgrounds become financially literate, business savvy and economically competitive.

Jason Wright of Merrill Lynch, said, "We think this is a wonderful way to expose young people to some of the career opportunities and rewards that can be available to them when they develop financial skills. Many youngsters, particularly in the inner cities, miss out on opportunities when they are adults to be successful entrepreneurs because no one opened their eyes to the possibilities. This national business plan competition has a very important mission--teaching students hands-on the excitement and skills of running a business and preparing them for a very successful business career."

"Virtual Enterprises is proud to partner with Merrill Lynch on this important initiative. As VEs nationwide continue to increase in number, so must their opportunities to demonstrate excellence, differentiation and achievement. Merrill Lynch's support in launching a national competition ensures that our students will have the opportunity to compete and succeed in a highly motivating and rewarding environment," said Iris Blanc, Director, Virtual Enterprises, International.

The Virtual Enterprises, International Trade Fair is an opportunity for students to exhibit and sell virtual (and, in some cases, actual) products and services through their virtual businesses in a competitive marketplace with their local and global colleagues and peers. The more than 100 VE Trade Fair exhibitors are student-run businesses including Essence Hotel, Inc. from Norman Thomas High School, The Printing Depot from Fort Hamilton High School, and VE Management (insurance agency) from New Dorp High School.

About Merrill Lynch's Philanthropy: Merrill Lynch was founded on the idea that the world is full of opportunity. Opening the door to that opportunity for underserved children and youth is the focus of the firm's global philanthropy. In 2005, Merrill Lynch giving totaled more than $37 million, with education receiving nearly half of that support. Merrill Lynch's flagship program Investing Pays Off(R)--or IPO(R)--helps create a level playing field for youngsters of all backgrounds through financial literacy and business savvy. The program strength lies in a free curriculum, the involvement of Merrill Lynch volunteers and online educational resources at http://volunteer.ml.com.

About Virtual Enterprise International: Pioneered in New York City high schools, Virtual Enterprise International, directed by Iris Blanc, offers students the opportunity to experience in a simulated business environment all facets of working in a real corporation.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 7, 2006
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