ATHENS, Ga. – It is no surprise many industries in Athens have been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 and The Classic Center is no exception.
This 370,000-plus square-foot facility sits empty following local restrictions of gatherings larger than 10 and mandating shelter in place to combat the pandemic.
With no events and little work for employees, The Classic Center Authority president and CEO Paul Cramer faced the realization he may need to lay off a number of his full and part-time staff.
Center officials assembled a task force to oversee the spread of the pandemic and work with elected officials to identify ways it could best be utilized and continue to be a resource to the community.
After offers of space to hospitals and to the State were kindly turned down, the task force continued to work closely with Athens-Clark County 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, county economic development manufacturing and industry specialist Ryan Thornton and Whitworth Land Corporation’s Grant Whitworth struck a partnership with The Classic Center and ByoPlanet International LLC.
ByoPlanet International is 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 a leading manufacturer of electrostatic spray equipment.
“Their portable systems have combated illness in schools, hospitals, and on cruise ships,” company president and CEO Rick O’Shea said. “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.”
Through the partnership, 40 Classic Center employees who were affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 will be hired.
“[I’m] 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,” Cramer said.
The partnership will also provide space rent to the facility and will use in-house caterer Levy for food and beverage needs.
ByoPlanet International will abide by sanitation best practices, and will use local hotel rooms for their employees to keep sanitation and health a top priority.
The task force is also working on producing a digital ‘battle of the bands’ in partnership with other local organizations, to be livestreamed to bring entertainment to those quarantined at home. Proceeds from this event will 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.