Open to Business, a program that provides free technical assistance and financing to start-ups, has gotten off to a solid start this year, providing advisory services to 58 small businesses and entrepreneurs through the end of March.

Overseen by the nonprofit Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers, Open to Business became available to young Dakota County businesses for the first time last year. The program, offered in Hennepin County for several years and in Carver County since 2012, is expanding to Scott County this year.

Service, food and retail businesses accounted for most of the clients in Dakota County receiving help in the first quarter. Two manufacturing businesses and four construction-related firms also have been clients this year.

The program provided one loan for $30,000 and helped arrange three other loans totaling $1.35 million in the first quarter.

In 2013 the program assisted 176 Dakota County businesses and arranged almost $280,000 in loans and grants.

The program's technical assistance services include business plan development, loan packaging, financial management, real estate analysis, marketing assistance, strategic planning and business regulation research.

Office building sold

An Eagan office property recently passed from one Eagan-based owner to another.

Woodland Equity Partners LLC paid $2.3 million for the 20,000-square-foot building at 1250 Yankee Doodle Road The seller was Marinkovic Holdings LLC, according to documents filed with the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

The property was built in 1992 and was most recently valued about $1.3 million for tax purposes, according to Dakota County property records.

Homebuilding eases up

Lakeville continues to lead the Twin Cities in homebuilding, although the pace has moderated from the last year.

The city issued 110 permits through the end of April, according to the latest Keystone Report for the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. The builders group reported that home construction for the entire metro area also fell slightly for the first four months of this year compared with the same period in 2013.

Minneapolis had the highest number of permitted units, but Eagan and Lakeville were in the top five among metro-area communities.

Apple Valley had 15 housing permits through the end of April vs. 17 a year earlier; Eagan had 35, up from 33; Farmington had 26 compared with three; Hastings reported 14, up from 13; Inver Grove Heights had 17, up from nine, and Rosemount reported 14 vs. 25. Burnsville had none, compared with two for the four-month period in 2013.

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