Open to Business, a program that provides assistance to fledgling businesses, has gotten off to a strong start in its first year in Dakota County.

Overseen by the nonprofit Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD), the program has reported that for the first nine months of the year, it provided advisory services to 124 businesses in the county. The businesses included restaurants, fitness studios, a pet-grooming business and a Web design firm.

The program also provided or helped arrange $167,000 in loans for businesses during the period.

Open to Business has been available for several years in Hennepin County and since 2012 in Carver County. It expanded to Dakota County this year, where it's being offered by MCCD in partnership with county and city community development agencies and several chambers of commerce.

The program in Dakota County is being funded with $130,000 from the Dakota County Community Development Agency and 10 partner cities.

Dance studio moves to Eagan

The Fred Astaire Dance Studio last week had a ribbon-cutting and grand-opening celebration at its new location at 1975 Seneca Road in Eagan. The studio previously was in Inver Grove Heights.

The Eagan studio is one of two in Minnesota for the nationwide chain, which was co-founded in 1947 by dance legend Fred Astaire. The other is in Rochester.

Chamber to honor five with awards

Five members of the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce will be honored Thursday at the group's annual Business Excellence Awards breakfast meeting at the Lost Spur Golf and Event Center in Eagan.

The winners are: Business Excellence, Flint Hills Resources of Rosemount; Community Leadership, August Ash of Bloomington; Small Business of the Year, Ze's Diner of Eagan; Non-Profit of the Year, Dodge Nature Center of West St. Paul; and Woman/Minority Owned Business, Bellacu of Mendota Heights.

Building boom in Lakeville

Lakeville issued building permits with a total valuation of $123.3 million through the end of October, an increase from $104.7 million for the same period in 2012.

The city issued commercial and industrial permits valued at $10.1 million through October, compared with $9.6 million during the same period in 2012.

Lakeville issued permits for 304 single-family homes with a total valuation of $96.4 million through the end of October. That compares with 215 single-family home valued at $63.7 million for the same period year ago.