The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has postponed two large conferences – including one in Perimeter Center that was to feature U.S. Sen. David Perdue – due to concerns about the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, smaller local business groups are continuing to meet for now.
The Georgia Chamber’s “Future of Free Enterprise” event was to be held March 23 at a Dunwoody hotel. That and a “Future of Rural Healthcare” event scheduled for March 25 at Georgia Southern University are postponed “due to the heightened awareness of global health concerns” about the coronavirus, a staff member said.
The postponements were partly due to possible other commitments by Perdue, healthcare professional and other attendees, the staff member said, and partly due to many companies restricting travel by their employees. The events have no new dates yet. The postponements came as the Fulton County School System announced it was closing all schools and offices on March 10, and possibly longer, after a teacher in South Fulton schools tested positive for the coronavirus.
Some other business groups in the areas of Perimeter Center and Buckhead are moving ahead with events.
“We’re not canceling anything. We have a lunch tomorrow,” said Tom Mahaffey, president and CEO of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, which was scheduled to hold its annual business awards luncheon on March 10. “We can’t stop living because of this. We can take all the precautions,” he said.
Mahaffey said his group is “monitoring” the coronavirus situation and noted its events are much smaller than the large conferences arranged by the Georgia Chamber.
The Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce has not postponed any events, according to communications and program director Britney Hardweare. “For now, we’re just trying to watch right now and see where things are moving,” she said.
The Buckhead Business Association hosts many speakers and events, including former Mayor Sam Massell’s annual “State of Buckhead” address, scheduled this year for March 26.
“We have not cancelled any meeting yet,” said BBA President Barry Hundley, but added that he had coronavirus response on the agenda for discussion at a March 10 board meeting.
The Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, two self-taxing business districts in Perimeter Center, operates an alternative commuting program called Perimeter Connects, helping individuals and companies with options like teleworking. PCIDs Executive Director Ann Hanlon said that, with growing concern about the coronavirus, Perimeter Connects “has already reached out to all major stakeholders to say, ‘We’re here to help.’” That help is free and includes such assistance as writing a company teleworking policy.
“We’ve already gotten a number of phone calls and I expect that number will tick up,” Hanlon said.
The PCIDs also coordinates the “Perimeter Executive Mobility Group,” a group of executives from major local companies — including Cox Communications, UPS, State Farm, Mercedes-Benz USA and InterContinental Hotels Group — that discusses and prepares for transportation issues. That includes responding to such situations as storms and the I-85 highway fire — and possibly to impacts from coronavirus closures, Hanlon said, though no group response has been needed yet.
Update: This story has been updated with comment from the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.