Global helium shortage affects businesses in Southwest Florida

Published: May 16, 2019 6:03 PM EDT

From nuclear weapons to balloons, it is easy to forget how many industries depend on helium. But now, a shortage of the popular gas is hurting businesses all across the country.

With graduation right around the corner, many parents have turned to Masquerade and Balloons Galore in Naples.

“My daughters graduating high school tomorrow,” said Travis Wilson, a customer. “I want to just make the festival a little bit more livelier.”

With big events approaching, many customers are out of luck for their festive features. Bethany Baier said her store is one of the few in the area that still has helium.

“Last week the University of Miami graduated,” said Baier, co-owner of Masquerade and Balloons Galore. “We had people last week that were picking up balloons over here. The parents living in Naples were driving over to the school because here was no helium on the other coast.”

What some are calling a global helium shortage has affected businesses around the country. A lack of resources and the expense to capture it have led to a lack of mining of the natural gas byproduct. The shortage even contributed to Party City shutting down some of its stores.

“Knowing that there was a shortage coming,” Baier said, “we kept a close eye on it.”

It is used in the medical filed, including to cool MRI machines. When a person sees a hot air balloon high in the sky, it is often helium. It even comes into play with rockets.

As for balloons, Baier said 70 percent of the balloon work it does is with air.

“There is still an option for balloons,” Baier said.

For businesses that have no other options, they hope that alone will keep them afloat.