Leslie Theiss, Field Office Manager for the Bureau of Land Management in Amarillo
Terry Bogey, of Party America,
The party industry is feeling the effects of a global helium shortage, and it's only expected to get worse.
"It's been a big surprise to all of us because no one expected this to happen," said Leslie Theiss, Field Office Manager for the Bureau of Land Management in Amarillo.
Theiss says global demand for helium continues to suck out the supply of helium from the United States.
In the Panhandle, the only helium plant still in operation by the federal government is the Exell Plant near Dumas.
The federal government decided to get out of the helium business in 1996 with the Helium Privatization Act, according to Theiss. By 2015, the hope was that the private industry would step up to the plate and take over many of the plants already managed by the government.
"That's not happening, they've not been able to bring new sources and supply online fast enough, the demand is rapidly outpacing everything else," said Theiss.
And that increasing demand is making it hard for party businesses to get the helium they need to fill balloon orders.
At Party America, Terry Bogey says she was told she better stock up before prices go up.
"You just don't want to run out, so I'm paying a rental thing for my helium tank," said Bogey.
Prices haven't gone up yet, says Bogey, but she expects them to in the very near future. When that happens, she'll raise the price of balloon by about 9 to 10 cents.
"When I feel it enough, then they'll feel it. Cause it's not a non-profit organization," said Bogey.
But party stores are not the only ones who use helium. Everyone from the computer industry, hospitals, and NASA use the gas. Unless other countries start producing their own helium, Theiss doesn't see the situation getting any better.
"People are upset by the balloons, but you can live without them if you have to. But when it hits the medical industry, or in your computers that you use all the time, then folks will care," said Theiss.
"We may have to go up, and if people really want the balloons they'll pay, just like if you want to drive your car, you're going to have to pay more," said Bogey.
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