) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. Small business insurance marketplace delayed.

The Obama administration is planning to delay the launch of the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, the marketplace that is supposed to provide small employers with multiple plan options starting next year, according to the

Wall Street Journal


The administration is saying it needs additional time to prepare, the article says.

For at least the first year, while in transition, the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed that small employers who are using the exchanges run by the U.S. (as opposed to the ones being run by individual states) offer only one plan to workers rather than picking from a range of options. They would then be able to offer workers a full range of plans in the marketplace in 2015, the article says.

The delay is likely from the government underestimating the logistical challenges in setting up the exchanges. "The information-technology needs required to get these up and running are staggering," Bob Graboyes of the National Federation of Independent Business told the


. "They didn't leave enough time and they underestimated the extent of the task."

2. American Express OPEN launches initiative to foster urban high-growth entrepreneurs.

American Express'

(AXP) - Get Report

small-business resource center is taking on a new initiative,

OPEN for Enterprise: Coalitions for High-Growth Entrepreneurship

, designed to foster high-growth entrepreneurship by giving select urban communities the right resources and tools for a better entrepreneurial environment. AmEx OPEN has partnered with Babson College's Professor Daniel Isenberg, the founding executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Projects. The new program is aimed at helping existing ventures expand and scale their businesses.

OPEN for Enterprise

is piloting in Milwaukee, Wisc. There it will build a framework for an entrepreneurial ecosystem that can be applied to other U.S. cities so communities can then develop their own strategy for high-growth entrepreneurship, AmEx says.

3. Small-firm hiring inches higher, but revenue still falls.

Businesses with fewer than 20 employees added 10,000 jobs in March, for an annualized growth rate of 0.7%, according to the


(INTU) - Get Report

Small Business Employment Index

. However revenue from these companies continued to drop in February, while the construction industry was the sole sector to see an increase, according to Intuit's monthly revenue index. (The index issues findings a month behind the employment index.)

This employment data is based on approximately 182,000 small business customers of Intuit Online Payroll and QuickBooks Online Payroll between Feb. 24, 2013 and March 23, 2013.

"National employment is growing slowly, and small business employment is growing even more slowly," said economist Susan Woodward. "While overall employment has risen 4.5% in three years, small business employment has risen only 1.4% over the same three years -- an annual rise of half a percent per year."

The February Small Business Revenue Index showed a 0.6% overall revenue decline on a per business basis. The retail and professional services industries saw the greatest revenue declines in February, at 0.9% each. Health care revenues declined the least in February, at 0.13%, Intuit said.

"The only two industry sectors where average revenue rose over the last year and last month are the construction and real estate services industries. They both benefit from the small but clear recovery in construction," Woodward said.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

Follow @LKulikowski

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