THIEF RIVER FALLS – Arctic Cat Inc., has temporarily closed the doors of its Thief River Falls, Minn., manufacturing facility, apparently due to difficulty in sourcing parts from overseas.
The plant, which employs approximately 800 or more in the northwest Minnesota town of approximately 8,800, manufactures snowmobiles, ATVs and side-by-side recreational vehicles, in addition to parts, garments and related accessories.
According to Thief River Falls Mayor Brian Holmer, the company has been experiencing work slowdowns for over a week, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was earlier this week the company made the announcement to shut down, though the closure should be temporary.
“They are currently shut down for, I think, three weeks,” Holmer said in a Friday afternoon phone call with the Herald. He added the closure could extend beyond that time “until they get some parts, because a lot of their shipments come from overseas and such.”
President Donald Trump on Thursday, March 12, enacted a travel ban affecting some 20 nations in Europe, as part of the United States' effort to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The move severely hampered movement across the Atlantic. That, Holmer said, has created problems with Arctic Cat's supply chain.
“None of that stuff can get across,” he said.
Holmer said he couldn’t begin to calculate the financial loss to the workers, and Arctic Cat’s closure is yet another blow to the city itself. The state of Minnesota, on Tuesday, March 17, moved to prohibit dine-in service at restaurants and bars.
“I just know there’s going to be a major impact,” Holmer said. “Anytime you take a person’s normal pay out of the equation, and all the poor businesses out there losing sales and stuff. They still have their loans to pay and their vendors to pay, and everything else.”
Thief River Falls is a factory town, due to the presence of Arctic Cat and Digi-Key, an online electronics distributor that employs approximately 3,500.
Friday, Digi-Key sent out a statement to employees, customers and the community. In the statement, Shane Zutz, vice president of human resources, clarified a series of precautions and other efforts underway at the company.
Zutz said there are no plans to close Digi-Key.
"We're in a unique situation that some of our products are in high demand by companies on the front lines of diagnosing and treating COVID-19," Zutz wrote in the statement. "We need to continue supplying these companies with the components they need, and have a contingency plan in place to ensure shipments continue."
Digi-Key employees are practicing social distancing; some employees are working from home. Also, Digi-Key has relaxed some of its time-off policies, since children are not in school and workers may need to be home to watch their kids.
"We are all in this together," Zutz said in the statement.
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