Athens Convention Center and Staff Repurposed to Build Hand Sanitizing Stations
Wednesday, March 25th, 2020
It is no surprise that many industries in Athens have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), and The Classic Center is no exception. This 370,000+- square-foot facility sits empty following the Athens-Clarke County (A-CC) ordinances restricting gatherings larger than 10 and mandating shelter in place to combat this terrible pandemic. With no events and little work for employees, The Classic Center Authority President and CEO Paul Cramer was faced with the devastating realization that he must lay off a number of his full- and part-time staff.
The Classic Center assembled a task force to oversee the spread of the pandemic and work with elected officials to identify ways that it could best be utilized and continue to be a resource to the community during such devastating times. After first offering space to hospitals and to the State for anything they might need, which was kindly turned down at this time, the task force continued to work closely with A-CC Mayor Kelly Girtz and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to find alternate ways to help. Spearheaded by David Bradley and State Representative Spencer Frye, the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce held a conference call to discuss alternate ways to support the local hospitality industry/small businesses and their employees. As a result of these efforts, A-CC Economic Development Manufacturing & Industry Specialist Ryan Thornton and Whitworth Land Corporation’s Grant Whitworth were able to facilitate a partnership with The Classic Center and ByoPlanet® International, LLC. Beginning March 24, 2020, ByoPlanet® International will be setting up an assembly facility in The Classic Center’s Grand Hall and developing sanitation stations to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
According to the company’s website, “ByoPlanet® International is the leading manufacturer of electrostatic spray equipment. The technology is a superior disinfectant delivery system that utilizes ‘wrap around’ coverage to every surface, providing better protection against the spread of illness-causing germs.” Their portable systems have combated illness in schools, hospitals, and on cruise ships. President/CEO of ByoPlanet® International Rick O’Shea says, “The great city of Athens has stepped up in our fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. We’re grateful for the admirable people of Athens to allow us to help protect those in our country. Together we fight back!”
A main feature of the contract between The Classic Center and ByoPlanet® International is that they will hire 40 Classic Center employees who were affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Paul Cramer, President and CEO of The Classic Center Authority, says he is “thankful for the opportunity to use our facility in a way that benefits Athens, our country, and our staff. This collaboration will provide a home base in the city fighting against this virus. Athens has long been unique in terms of identity and community. Now, we must continue to stand together.” In addition to hiring our employees, this partnership will also provide space rent to the facility and will utilize in-house caterer Levy for food and beverage needs. ByoPlanet® International agrees to abide by sanitation best practices and will utilize local hotel rooms for their employees to keep sanitation and health a top priority.
The Classic Center is continuing to seek ways to help during this unprecedented time. In addition to hosting the work of ByoPlanet® International, the task force is also working out the logistics of producing a digital Battle of the Bands, in partnership with other local organizations, that can be livestreamed to bring entertainment to those quarantined at home. Proceeds from this event will in turn go to benefit the hard-hit hospitality industry in Athens. The task force will also continue to research additional opportunities to be of service to the community while maximizing the use of the facility to combat COVID-19.