‘People just won’t come back to work’: Nebraska facing labor shortage

BEATRICE - Nebraska has some of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, but a recent labor shortage has plagued the state and its businesses.

Chad Lottman owns Landmark Snacks in Beatrice, a meat stick company that employs in large numbers. Lottman said for his business, it goes back to the pandemic.

“Since COVID, we’ve found it really difficult to get people to want to come out and get back to work,” Lottman said.

Lottman doesn’t think the state or its businesses are to blame for labor shortage issues, but instead independent decisions by Nebraska residents to be complacent with their current standing.

“We know thee are people out there, we know we should have the labor force,” Lottman said. “Even though Nebraska’s unemployment numbers are super low, and they always have been, it’s my belief that people are just choosing not to work.”

Landmark Snacks opened in Beatrice about five years ago and started small and Lottman worked hard to grow it to what it is today. For someone like Lottman, the sentiment of people not wanting to work makes production more difficult, but it all stems from changed views as a result of the pandemic.

“The snack stick business is thriving and growing more than ever,” Lottman said. “We have plenty of opportunity and business in front of us, but we’re struggling to have enough staff to maintain the business we had, pre-COVID.”

Landmark has transitioned to seven-day work weeks. While it may appear as a business move to aid the company, that’s not the goal.

“Not for production, but for it to be more effective to bring team member son,” Lottman said.

In addition to the labor issues facing the state and its businesses, the COVID-19 Delta Variant is on Lottman’s mind, but the goal of safety is priority number one.

“Unfortunately that adds challenges that we’d rather not have to deal with,” Lottman said. “It impacts the morale of the team, having to wear masks again, but it’s something we have to live with.”

With the labor shortage being impacted by people not wanting to work and the potential changes brought on by the Delta variant, like many, Lottman is uncertain of what the future looks like for labor in Nebraska.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Lottman said. “The culture of the public has just changed so much and it continues to be a big struggle for us.”