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COVID-19 Outbreak: Minnesota’s Fortune 500 Companies Adopt Contingency Plans

The state’s largest companies roll out initiatives to continue meeting consumer demands.

COVID-19 Outbreak: Minnesota’s Fortune 500 Companies Adopt Contingency Plans
Xcel Energy is halting electrical and natural gas services disconnections for residential customers.

It seems nothing is untouched by COVID-19. As of Monday, the number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Minnesota shot up to 54, with 1,893 patients tested. With the situation morphing seemingly by the minute, the nation appears to be heading toward a year-long recession, according to the state’s estimates. In the middle of all this, Minnesota’s Fortune 500 companies are enacting contingency plans to meet consumer demand for goods.

In light of the national state of emergency declared Friday, Xcel Energy is halting electrical and natural gas services disconnections for residential customers, the utility provider announced Sunday.

“The energy grid is essential to the nation’s critical infrastructure and we’re taking a well-planned, heightened approach to all threats, including COVID-19,” Brett Carter, the company’s executive vice president, said in a press release.

U.S. Bancorp is focused on taking actions to minimize the impact of coronavirus on employees, customers, and operations, spokesman Lee Henderson said in a statement. 

“We are reviewing our continuity plans across our various business activities to ensure continuity of critical processes, including those processes supporting our customers. With particular emphasis on employees in critical business functions, we are assessing and testing backup locations, worksite transfer or relocation options, as well as remote access laptop capabilities and increased VPN access where necessary,” he said.

Other financial companies like Thrivent have also enacted safety and work-from-home measures. Thrivent also has cancelled or postponed events with more than 50 people, spokeswoman Samantha Mehrotra said in a statement. Some events have been switched to webinars. 

“Thrivent is a strong and stable diversified financial services organization that is well-positioned to not only weather, but thrive during this storm. Our strong capital and surplus position will allow us to deliver on our past and future commitments to our customers,” Mehrotra said.

C.H. Robinson, a global transportation services and logistics provider based in Minnesota, is remaining fully operational around the world and adhering to health regulations. 

“All of our locations have business continuity plans and strategies in place to allow our employees to work remotely as the need arises. Our global reach and technology position us to adjust operational support as needed to ensure uninterrupted service,” the company said in a statement.

Financial corporation Ameriprise also remains open, though most of employees are working remotely.

“We have a responsibility to effectively serve our clients with as minimal disruption as possible. That said, we will operate our business differently for the near term,” the company said in a statement.

While the scramble for things like toilet paper has become infamous, Best Buy is also seeing the effects of panic purchasing, said spokesperson Keegan Shoutz in a statement. 

“We are seeing a surge in demand across the country for products that allow people to work or learn from home as well those products that allow people to refrigerate or freeze food. Our teams are working hard to meet this demand while keeping their safety top of mind. And we’ve made a number of changes – with more to come – that will help keep them and customers even safer as they meet the needs of Americans for their modern necessities,” Shoutz said.

Grocery stores and malls have started to limit hours to mitigate the surge of stockpiling, including Lunds & Byerlys, which reduced its hours and requested that the first hour of operations be reserved for those at high risk of severe illness. 

General Mills has seen the effect of panic buying in an increased demand for shelf-stable products like soup, cereal, snacks, and dry baking mixes, said spokeswoman Kelsey Roemhildt in an email.

“Like many food companies, we’re seeing a short-term increase in customer orders in the U.S. Our production facilities are running to help our retailers meet this demand, which could look like increased production of some products or utilizing our entire supply chain network to maximize service,” she said.

Employees have been asked to work from home when possible, and to engage in social distancing until April 1. General Mills will be detailing more information regarding COVID-19 in its Q3 earnings call Wednesday.

United Natural Food Inc., the parent company of Eden Prairie-based Supervalu, announced on Monday that it’s collaborating with the White House, government agencies, and other food and retail grocers to make food accessible to people. 

“America's food supply chain is the best in the world thanks to its strong infrastructure, flexibility, and resiliency. To keep the supply chain that strong, we have asked the administration's help in encouraging responsible consumer purchasing, keeping essential and healthy associates at work, and ensuring highways and roads remain open to cargo trucks,” CEO Steven Spinner said in a press release. 

The high demand for processed foods, meanwhile, has benefitted companies like Hormel Foods. The company has contingency plans in place to determine appropriate steps going forward, the company said in a statement.

“We always work closely with our customers and suppliers to ensure steady supply of all our products. We are glad that in these times, and other times, we have products that people can turn to,” the statement read.

The demand for supplies like respirators is still exceeding supply, 3M officials said in a statement. The company has ramped up production around the world to meet the need.

“3M expects demand for respirators to outpace supply for the foreseeable future,” the statement read. “3M is committed to supporting the public health and government response to the coronavirus outbreak.”

Last week, Target’s CEO Brian Cornell said the company is working to restock empty shelves. 

“As demand for cleaning products, medicine, pantry stock-up items, and more remains high, we’re sending more products to our stores as quickly as possible,” he said.

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