Local manufacturers say supply chain is severed | New

MENOMINEE — A shortage of truck drivers and other supply chain issues are pushing up prices and slowing the economy, business owners said.

“The supply chain is broken today and we certainly can’t ignore it,” said Jim Brill of Performance Corp., based in Seymour, Wisconsin, which has a sawmill in Carney.

“Because it’s broken, it will come at a cost to all of us at the consumer level, which we are already starting to see. The cost of our clothes, the cost of our food is increasing, ”Brill said.

But most people will do without an item if the price is too high. Bob Anderson, co-owner with his wife Lois of Anderson Manufacturing Co. in Menominee, said he had slowed down production of his wooden storage beds because he didn’t think people would pay enough to make a profit. “You would have to increase your prices so much that people won’t buy it,” he said. At the high end, its queen beds cost $ 6,000 or $ 7,000, and the customer assembles the bed when it arrives in a box.

The price of lumber and the cost of shipping it to Anderson Manufacturing Co. are so high that Lois said the company has reduced its operations to six part-time workers. She attributed the problem to COVID and workers who stay at home. “People used to come here looking for jobs,” Lois said. “Not anymore.”

In this context, U.S. Representative Jack Bergman, a Republican who represents Michigan’s 1st Congressional District, joined 159 other Republicans in signing a letter to President Joe Biden declaring: Safe and Efficient Movement of Goods, People and services across our entire transportation network.

“We need to resolve the global supply chain and port crisis before Congress even considers additional social spending and tax legislation. Our priority right now should be to strengthen our country’s economy and increase our global competitiveness, ”the October 20 letter said.

Bergman also spoke to Congress to oppose the Democrats’ $ 5.5 trillion spending bill recently, saying only a fraction will go to roads, bridges and broadband infrastructure.

Transportation and supply chain issues are so acute that Anderson Manufacturing Co has told many of its employees to stay home. He cannot earn enough money from his bed sales to justify the cost of advertising to gain more sales.

While the price of beds – from $ 400 to $ 7,000, depending on the size, number of storage drawers, and type of wood – hasn’t changed, the cost of materials has increased dramatically. A board that once cost $ 50 a sheet now costs $ 85, said Bob Anderson. Plywood that used to cost $ 20 a sheet now costs $ 65, he said.

“We have reduced our demand by limiting our advertising,” said Bob Anderson.

Lois Anderson said the company has gone through many recessions since 1962 or 1963 when the storage bed company was started. Its beds have enjoyed strong mail order sales for over a decade through Sears, Fingerhut and Wards, producing 300 beds per day and employing over 30 workers. Previously, the couple golfed in sports equipment, furniture and sewing products. “When you’re a designer / inventor, you just make things and sell them,” Lois said. But that model doesn’t work today, as the cost of materials and labor wipes out most of the profits.

“It has a lot to do with government right now, the way government works. It causes a lot of problems, ”said Bob Anderson.

With a shortage of truck drivers, it takes longer and more expensive to deliver raw materials and goods. Anderson Manufacturing builds custom beds from pine and oak supplied by the West, he said. “It’s because some sawmills have closed. Everyone in the woodworking industry has a hard time getting materials, ”he said.

“It has a lot to do with government right now, the way government works. It causes a lot of problems, ”said Bob Anderson.

Lumber is plentiful in northern Wisconsin, but Performance Corp. also has many opportunities for workers. Brill said the labor shortage, including a shortage of truck drivers, is a national problem that is slowing economic recovery. Performance Corp. plans to transfer 26 positions to Carney for its planned expansion, Brill said.

The company operates its own fleet of 50 semi-tractors and 500 trailers to move products from the Michigan sawmill, where the logs are converted into lumber and transported to the Wisconsin mill for processing into pallets and crates.

Brill said that Performance Corp. will recruit machine operators, material handlers, truck drivers and supervisors as the business grows. “We are a company that is always on a growth plan. From the start, when I bought the plant (from Carney) in 2001, we’ve grown tenfold, ”Brill said.

When asked what caused the labor shortage, Brill said, “We have continued restrictions on businesses. COVID has definitely created a new environment in which we can live and work, ”he said.

Biden’s executive order encouraging companies with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations is a restriction that Performance Corp. resisted. “Each individual has their own personal beliefs about immunization and as a great country we live in this is very important to allow freedom of choice,” he said. “Personally, I believe in the vaccine. However, being a business owner, I don’t think this is the right place to provide a mandate.

Performance Corp., which plans to create 78 jobs in Carney, Mich. Over the next three years as it expands its sawmill operations there, needs masks. Since the inception of COVID, “we have had less than 25% of our population absent due to illnesses or symptoms related to COVID,” he said.

“COVID has shut down some sawmills over the past year and due to epidemics, not ours but others. Obviously when COVID first started, those first two months there was a lot of fear and fear shutdowns, ”Brill said.

“The economy is strong, so industrial capacity has not been able to recoup what we have lost as well as the labor shortage due to the stimulus packages that the government has issued. There are fewer employees that we can take advantage of, ”said Brill.

The company strives to retain its workers by treating them like family. “We are constantly monitoring the market and paying our employees at or above the market. Plus, we take a look at all the benefits to make sure they’re taken care of.

With open positions at Carney and Seymour, Brill said social programs for COVID kept some workers out of the workforce for too long. “What concerns me is that some of these employees are no longer in the workforce. They are no longer available because they have chosen not to be. We keep raising the salaries of our employees and at some point people only need enough money to live. They don’t always need more.

All the publicity about the number of COVID cases, tests and vaccines presents a distraction from getting back to business as usual. “It’s a bit of a tactical approach to fear,” Brill said. “We have a business to run and a country to run. The country really needs to run like a business.

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