Pandemic economy supply-chain challenges affect local small business

Maryland

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — We’re hearing about it more and more: how market disruptions during the pandemic have crippled the supply chain. It’s a worldwide problem, but even small businesses in places like Hagerstown have to adapt.

Farmers are used to getting too much or too little rain. For a Hagerstown small business, abnormal is normal.
After running a family printing business for 50 years, Sam Wright shows up for work every day expecting the unexpected. So word of shipping logjams, worker shortages and rising prices for such basic raw materials as paper doesn’t throw Sam into a state of panic.

“There’s never a perfect mix in business of the right amount of staff, business and resources,” said Wright. “There’s always something a little out of balance.”

In the printing business, you really can’t have a product without paper! Restaurants need to print menus. Brides need to mail out wedding invitations. No need to freak out, says Wright. To run a successful business, he says, always anticipate that hard-thrown curve.

“It’s not just a matter of paper sitting out in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere,” Wright said. “It may sitting up in the warehouse up in Mechanicsville but they don’t have a driver available to make that route that day.”

Yes, paper pricing has shot straight up and the supply chain snafus aren’t helping any. The Pulp and Paper products council says uncoated sheet paper — the kind used in basic office copiers — is up more than $1,000 a ton. As for premium paper products like wedding invitations? The market adapts, says Wright.

“Even wedding invitations, there’s a lot more of those that went out on high-end papers,” Wright explained. “Now we have social media. A lot of that material is just shared on social media.”

Analysts say the supply-chain logjams have created the tightest paper products market in 20 years. But as Sam Wright has done all these years, he’ll just adapt. For a business owner like Wright, the key is to find opportunity in these challenges.

That express-delivered box to your door has gone up in price as the growing demand for online orders has driven up the price of packaging paper.

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