Every minimum wage worker in Minnesota got a pay raise on Friday thanks to a new law.
The minimum wage increased to $8 an hour at large businesses and $6.50 at smaller businesses.
Heth Hardware has been a staple in La Crescent for 54 years now, taking pride in helping customers find the right tools for a home project but also taking pride in helping young students start their employment career. However, the president of the company, Bob Heth, said the new wage hike may change all that.
"I just got out of middle school and then I applied for a job and I started working,” said Jake Inglett, worker at Heth Hardware.
Sixteen-year-old Inglett has been working at Heth Hardware in La Crescent for almost 2 1/2 years. Now he makes about $9 an hour, but he started out at minimum wage.
"When I started here I was making $7.25 an hour, so it was pretty good. I thought that was just unbelievable at my age, making that,” said Inglett.
"We have always started kids at minimum wage,” said Heth. "This is a training time for them to graduate from minimum wage to higher wages."
Inglett isn't the only high school student working at the hardware store; there are five others just like him.
"I do like to develop young people; we have had hundreds of young people that have worked here and started their business careers and earning careers here, and I am proud of what many of them have done,” said Heth.
However, with the new minimum wage increase in Minnesota, which requires all new workers to start off at $8 an hour, Heth said his business plan may have to change.
"We are limited as to what hours they (students) can work,” said Heth. "If there is senior citizens looking for some part-time work and are willing to work the hours a retailer has to in order to survive, I will look more into that."
Heth doesn't want to change his workforce, because he knows what this experience means to future business owners.
"Eventually, I just want to go work for a plumbing industry for a few years and then go to school for small business,” said Inglett.
And Inglett admits it wouldn't be possible without everything he has learned at Heth Hardware.
"Automotive, plumbing, electrical, hardware, a lot of that stuff I didn't know anything about it until I started working here. People showed me the ropes, and it's just been helping me a lot,” said Inglett.
Heth also said he will see more of an impact than other businesses in Minnesota because of his location.
For business owners in Minneapolis or Mankato, they are all paying the same minimum wage and on the same playing field. However for Heth, being in a border town, he is competing with Wisconsin, which has less sales tax on products, less property tax and now a lower minimum wage.
This is the first in a series of pay increases for minimum wage workers in Minnesota. The new law will raise the minimum wage next year and the year after that until it tops out at $9.50 an hour.