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New DEED automation funding program to bring more robots to Minnesota economy

“Facing the tightest labor market in America, we know Minnesota businesses can’t create a larger workforce out of thin air,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “A key strategy has to be automation ..."

A robot picks a tomato in a garden.
Applicants are sought for a new Minnesota program to support automation with manufacturing, distribution, technology and warehousing businesses with 500 or fewer employees.
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service
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ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced a new program to support automation at manufacturers, the latest component of the $97 million State Small Business Credit Initiative .

As part of the Automation Loan Participation Program , DEED will make companion loans to cover financing gaps and expand financing opportunities for businesses purchasing machinery, equipment, or software to increase productivity and automation.

“Facing the tightest labor market in America, we know Minnesota businesses can’t create a larger workforce out of thin air,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “A key strategy has to be automation – which is why DEED’s new Automation Loan Participation Program will help manufacturers automate more quickly to drive innovation and productivity gains that will help our economy grow."

DEED seeking applicants now

DEED loans through the new program can be worth up to $500,000 and need to be made in conjunction with private financing. Applications are open now .

The new program is designed to support manufacturing, distribution, technology, and warehousing businesses with 500 or fewer employees. These businesses have historically been less likely to pursue automation and are more likely to be unable to secure full financing for automation improvements from other lenders. Full terms and requirements are available on DEED’s website .

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The new loan program joins other DEED initiatives to help manufacturers implement automation. DEED's Automation Training Incentive program provides grants to small businesses for the purpose of training existing workers on new automation technology. Grants of up to $35,000 are available to small businesses in the manufacturing or skilled production industry to train workers as quickly and effectively as possible on new automation technology.

DEED staff will host an informational webinar about the new program at 9;30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 at https://bit.ly/3UgRfRs .

5 of 6 SSBCI programs announced

The U.S. Department of Treasury approved Minnesota for up to $97 million in small business financing support, which allows DEED to carry out its commitment to help small businesses grow and succeed.

The Automation Loan Participation Program is the fifth of six programs so far announced as part of the new initiative. Other programs include:

  • The Growth Loan Fund , providing direct loans to innovative seed- and early-stage technology businesses;
  • The Minnesota Loan Guarantee Program , providing 80% loan guarantees for qualified loans made by enrolled institutions; and
  • The Direct Investment and Multi-Fund Investment Programs , two venture capital programs offered by the University of Minnesota investing in Minnesota-based seed- and early-stage businesses in the advanced manufacturing, agtech/foodtech, climate tech, life sciences, software, and technology sectors.

Bringing it all together: a new online Small Business Hub

To help small businesses and startups navigate these new programs and understand the breadth of DEED's existing resources for small businesses, the agency recently launched a new online Small Business Hub . The Hub is designed to help entrepreneurs navigate agency resources to start and grow their businesses. It provides resources and expertise for small business owners looking to launch in Minnesota, along with a comprehensive list of DEED program offerings to help entrepreneurs thrive.

It can be found at joinusmn.com/smallbusiness .

The creation of one-stop shop resources was one of the recommendations of the Governor's Council on Economic Expansion , which advocated for increased focus from the agency to help small business growth. That recommendation will remain a key priority of the Walz-Flanagan administration across the enterprise.

For more information about the initiative, visit Treasury's SSCBI page or learn more at DEED .

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About the State Small Business Credit Initiative

The initiative was part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and included $10 billion for state, territory and tribal business finance programs. This is the second initiative – Minnesota received $15 million through the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

DEED is the state’s principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website , or the JoinUsMn.com website.

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