Labor Shortages and Supply Chain Disruptions Affect Oberlin Businesses – The Oberlin Review

Business owners around Oberlin are struggling to hire workers and acquire certain products as labor shortages and supply chain disruptions affect businesses across the country. In town, closed properties, such as those that previously housed restaurants that closed during the pandemic, have remained closed due to these post-COVID-19 economic woes.

According to Oberlin Business Partnership executive director Janet Haar, fluctuations in business operations caused by the pandemic have resulted in layoffs and high job turnover rates.

“Restaurants, for example, couldn’t keep people when they didn’t have business, so they had to let people go,” Haar said. “But some of our local businesses – General Plug – for example, have almost doubled their sales during that time. But then they can’t find people for jobs.

According to the most recent Pulse of Small Businesses survey of the United States Census, from November 15 to 21, 33.7% of businesses had difficulty hiring paid workers. This problem is most prevalent in accommodation and food services, of which 61.5 percent report having difficulty hiring paid workers.

Haar described how these nationwide economic problems have affected Oberlin’s small businesses and industry. Although the problem is widespread in accommodation and food companies located in downtown Oberlin, Haar said the problem is widespread throughout Oberlin economy.

“Oberlin is a little microcosm of what’s going on all over the United States and around the world,” she said. “You’ve seen restaurants like The Feve say, ‘We’re going to close on Mondays for a while, or we won’t be able to offer tacos anymore because it takes too much to make them and we don’t have the people.’ or slow train [Cafe], which had to close when Oberlin’s student employees left, because they didn’t have enough employees – and you can hear it everywhere. Oberlin IGA still has around seven fewer employees than they actually need. And you can see signs for our industrial companies like Hydro Tube [Enterprises] and General Plug, and the companies in the industrial park – just about every one of them has a sign that says “Help Wanted”.

Labor shortages have also made it difficult to open new businesses, especially restaurants. Two restaurant businesses, Black River Cafe and Oberlin Kitchen, have closed permanently due to the pandemic and remain unoccupied. According to Haar, this is in part the result of labor shortages as well as the return to what she calls post-COVID-19 “now normal.”

“Most of the restaurants haven’t even returned to where they were before,” Haar said. “So the idea of ​​opening another one now, when it’s really hard to find help, isn’t great. We are lucky that Bistro Bella Luna and The Arb [at Tappan Square] have arrived in town and they both seem to be doing pretty well, but it’s a big decision… to start a restaurant, which usually doesn’t have very high bottom lines.

Companies currently facing these problems have had to make changes to their normal operations. Slow Train Cafe and The Local Coffee & Tea owner Jessa New, OC ’01, had to change her normal business hours to fill the staff shortage even after students returned to Oberlin.

“When COVID-19 hit, it was basically a huge hurdle in terms of this natural type of entry and exit of ex-employees who are graduating and the arrival of new employees,” she said. . “So I kind of lost that rhythm. When things came back this semester,… I didn’t have a full squad straight away. … It’s not just about having someone in there with a pulse; it’s actually about having someone in there that you take the time to train. They know the stores, how they work and our expectations. It’s a good three to four week process to really acclimate to a new person.

There are many companies that cannot rely on a constant flow of college student applicants. Krista Long, owner of Ben Franklin and MindFair Books, said that while she was able to easily find new employees for her stores, it proved difficult to find a skilled workforce in the long run.

“I’m happy with the clerk and the floor staff,” she said. “We have a good atmosphere here. Everyone works well together. I like the youth of the staff. But I need a database manager and another buyer and someone who can handle all the creative stuff like the picture frame store, fabric, and garden. These are the jobs that I find stimulating.

Another national-level challenge that businesses in Oberlin face are supply chain disruptions. As the economy recovers from the pandemic, the logistics industry is struggling to keep up with the growing demand for products. Supply chain bottlenecks – ranging from a shortage of truckers to lack of space in ports and warehouses – have resulted in businesses and consumers facing empty shelves and long delays. for articles.

According to Long, whose businesses depend on an eclectic supply of products, keeping some products in stock has been difficult due to supply chain issues.

“It’s quite interesting to see how that evolves, because we have such a range of merchandise,” she said. “First, during the pandemic, some things just disappeared. The ones we can get right now. Just one after another – a month, these are dishes in the microwave, and God knows why, but all brands: very little supply. Then it’s tampons and menstrual products. … When something is out of stock, it stays out of stock for a long time. I reach out, try to find another source for it, or sometimes I just can’t find it, and that’s it. And then it’s available again. So it was frustrating and difficult to deal with.

However, Long and New expressed their gratitude for the Oberlin community’s continued support for their businesses amid these issues, as well as their hope for greater stability in the future. Yet, according to Long, these problems are a hallmark of the global economy and were only highlighted by the pandemic.

“Overall our customers are very understanding and continue to support us, so we hope that this balances out,” she said. “But to be honest, I think we are looking at the weaknesses of the supposedly global economy that we have.”

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