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On the Front Lines of COVID-19: The Trade Group and the Together Again Expo

(Pictured above: The Trade Group has pivoted production to PPE masks and workplace safety solutions)

As the world continues to battle with COVID-19 in the face of a projected second wave, pioneering firms across the tradeshow and event industry are anticipating the needs of an uncertain future, while others are pushing the envelope towards a “return to normal.”

Texas is heating up, and not just because it’s July. A second wave of the coronavirus is said to be sweeping the Lone Star State, and businesses from Austin to Amarillo are bracing for what is anticipated to be another difficult few months. In Dallas, award-winning experiential design firm, The Trade Group, has turned its attentions to developing products with the new workplace in mind, whenever (and whatever) that might be.

The fiTrade Grouprm’s approach is two-fold. On an individual level, low-cost personal protective equipment face shields (pictured left) for use by front line workers have been coming out of the company’s Carrolton headquarters since April. Designed to protect the entire face from “spray, splatter and droplets,” the shields feature a thick band that absorbs sweat, provides space for glasses or safety goggles, and can be easily disinfected after use. The Trade Group has also launched custom, COVID-19-inspired fabrication solutions for corporate interiors, restaurants, salons and other retail scenarios.

But it’s not all business. As soon as the switch was made to full PPE production, the firm donated thousands of face shields to individuals and organizations that needed them right away. “We really wanted to do our part to help support and protect healthcare workers who were on the front lines,” explains Robin Barhydt, senior design consultant at The Trade Group. “Time was of the essence, so we donated facial shields to those organizations that were in dire need.”

Just ten miles down the road sits the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, and things are looking a little precarious for the luxurious waterside property. As recently as June 14, the facility was set to host the 2,300-attendee Sunbelt Builders Show, but the event has now been canceled. Even more alarming is news coming out of Illinois, where McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago recently learned that September’s International Manufacturers Technology Show has also cancelled. Another devastating blow—its attendance is approximately 129,000—the estimated economic impact to Chicago of the cancellation is estimated at $247 million.

In Florida, however, it’s an entirely different story. The conversation has very much been around reopening in the Sunshine State, and in Orlando, the Orange County Convention Center is revving-up for its first event since the shutdown: a 10,000-person high school volleyball tournament running July 14-22—the largest such event in the country. “I’m very excited to be getting groups back,” says Mark Tester, OCCC executive director, explaining that the facility expects to “ramp up” over the next few months with 12 events already slated in July and August.

Among those events is the Together Again Expo, running July 24. Hosted by Alliance Nationwide Exposition, this industry-focused gathering is designed to provide a forum on how live events can safely move forward and return to business as Florida enters Phase Two of COVID-19 recovery. “The OCCC is proud to host the Together Again Expo to help instill confidence throughout our industry as we begin to incrementally host modified events,” says Tester.

The focus on “returning to normal” is set to continue at the OCCC, with the facility reporting no cancellations (as yet) for 2021, and they aren’t alone. At time of press, both McCormick Place and the Las Vegas Convention Center are expecting full calendars next year. Whether they achieve that expectation very much remains to be seen.

Upcoming stories in this series will feature companies and individuals who have risen to the occasion to build temporary medical facilities, masks and whatever is needed during the current crisis. If your company is going above and beyond to assist in this fight, please email us at newsdesk@exhibitcitynews.com and Amadeus at amadeus_finlay@hotmail.com for inclusion in future stories in this series.

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