You can’t smell it or see it, but you most likely used something that was made with it today.
Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, used for everything from MRI machines to Internet cables. However, a global shortage is forcing some businesses to make adjustments, especially party stores that rely on balloons for the majority of their sales. Earlier this month, Party City announced it will close over 40 of its stores.
“I would say the last five years is when it really started to get bad,” said Deanna Madrigal, operations manager at Let’s Party in Kennewick. “We don’t get any of our helium from the Tri-Cities anymore.”
This time of year – graduation season – the store can sell up to 10,000 balloons. However, they now have to travel to Portland at least twice a month to get helium, and prices are also skyrocketing. Madrigal said costs have tripled in recent years.
“Because we’re a small, locally-owned business it’s huge, the decrease in any sales, and with minimum wage going up in January again to have another decrease on top of that is huge,” she said.