By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Saturday’s snowy surprise along Interstate 94 near Rogers sent dozens of trucks and cars to area body shops.

That’s where skilled technicians will pound and grind, paint and sand the crumpled metal, repairing dents and dings until the vehicle is new again.

“A lot of it is the side hits with our city streets narrowed. We’ve replaced a lot of mirrors, probably three or four mirrors each day we’re putting on,” Paul Hagen said.

Hagen is co-owner of Hagen’s Auto Body in south Minneapolis. He says it’s been tough keeping up this winter, adding, “Yeah, the phone calls go up after a snowstorm.”

Once damage estimates are done, insurance has to be approved. Then scheduling the work and getting parts can lead to more delay.

For customers, Hagen says, the bottom line is to be patient.

“It seems overwhelming, seems like things level off stuff like that, and scheduling has a lot to do with it. Being aware of how much work you can accomplish in a certain week and how much you can’t,” said Hagen.

Part of the problem is a labor shortage. There are fewer auto body technicians entering the trade. And within the next decade, a large number of those currently employed will retire.

“There are many phone calls to answer, it’s non-stop,” said Ramin Hakimi, owner of Oscar Auto Body.

Lack of a skilled workforce is making it harder for shop owners like Hakimi to keep up with demand.

“The number of students going into this industry has dropped, making it difficult to bring new workforce into this field,” Hakimi said.

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