ST. PAUL (WJON News) - A new program from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development will help put more robots on more local manufacturing floors.

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The Automation Loan Participation Program offers loans to help cover the costs of machinery, equipment, and software needed to increase productivity.

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove says small businesses statewide need the extra help.

One of the things we consistently hear from business leaders is that we have to be able to hire more workers from more places than we ever have before. But at the end of the day, you can't create a workforce out of thin air. You have to be able to automate a lot more quickly than you had in the past. For small to mid-size manufacturers, it can be harder and more expensive. Robots aren't cheap.

The loan program is the latest part of the $97 million State Small Business Credit Initiative.

During the video conference, Bob Kill, President of Enterprise Minnesota, said the strength of robots and automation on manufacturing floors is that they can go into smaller businesses in rural communities, where the business may have greater difficulty finding labor. As a result, manufacturing businesses in small communities can compete more efficiently from rural communities across the state.

Mike Nolting is the co-owner of SNX Technologies in Sauk Rapids. He says after adding a robot in inventory management, his employees found their job got easier.

One thing that we have always struggled with is employee retention because if there's a job that somebody doesn't like that position keeps turning over and over and over.  What we've seen now, just in the addition of this lift, our employees actually like coming to work because they know that they're going to be able to find the parts they're going to be they're clean, that they can actually get their job done instead of chasing their tail all day back and forth.

For more on the Automation Loan Participation Program, click here.


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