Supply chain shortage hits home in Greater Minnesota

Forget about whether the kids will get what they want from Santa next month — many toys and other products in limbo due to a shortage of shipping containers and backlog at U.S. ports, among other issues. The disruption to the supply chain of goods and materials has not only emptied shelves in stores but also created another shortage: a dearth of materials that manufacturers and other businesses and their employees across the state depend on.

When staff at Pet Expo put in dozens of pages of orders, almost every day, they know they won’t see much of it soon, if at all.

“It’s frustrating for us,” said owner Tom Yenish. “I pay staff to go through the store and see what we need and put orders in and we order almost every day. You put all that staff time in and you get very little of your orders.”

Yenish also owns Motel 6. “You can’t get pillow cases or sheets or even toilet paper. It’s a problem running a hotel with no toilet paper. So you just have to scramble to find things.”

The surprising extent of the impact on and threat to the success of businesses across the board in the Mankato area was detailed by the Free Press.

At Mico in North Mankato, Brent Turner oversees purchasing and said they continue to see delays in getting the raw materials and parts they need, and shipping finished products out overseas is often a struggle.

“Depending on the commodity, we’re seeing extended lead times from several different suppliers and some logistical issues in getting things from overseas because of the ship container shortage,” Turner said.

The lack of certainty of whether or when key materials for manufacturing will arrive has a domino effect, making it difficult to guarantee delivery to customers. The shortages can not only curtail current operations, but also the ability of companies to grow and add new jobs, short-circuiting economic growth.

[Jones Metal VP Dave] Richards said labor shortages at suppliers and manufacturers mean fewer products available and general delays.

“We installed five or six new machines this year and it actually went well. But if you’re thinking about buying a piece of equipment and you call the dealer and they say that they have one on hand, you’d better say yes and be ready to buy, because tomorrow it might be gone.”

Richards said they bought one piece of equipment that’s made in Portugal. “The dealer had one and we bought it. He said the next one they get won’t be until February. It’s really hit and miss.”

A local shortage of workers also makes matters worse, leading some employers to hold off on other potential investment opportunities for that reason, as well.

Yenish, who also owns The Paw Pet Resort and has other business interests, said there are franchises that have asked him to open different businesses in Mankato, but he’s been hesitant.

“The two things that weigh on me are the high cost of putting a project together and wondering if we’ll have the labor force for years to come to operate it.”

Thus far, the Biden administration appears unable to break through the bottleneck holding up goods and supplies. Shortages on store shelves and manufacturing floors may be here to stay indefinitely, forcing Minnesota businesses and families to adapt to an unfamiliar type of economic uncertainty in the Christmas shopping season and beyond.