Randy Goodwin uses PPP money and reserves to bring back workers for training at his events business, but predicts his industry will be the last to recover.
Owner Randy Goodwin said whenever someone asks him what PRI Productions does, he has a simple answer.
“When a group of people get together, there’s a purpose for PRI Productions,” he said of his Jacksonville-based event production company.
It’s not so simple these days.
“Never in my life or in 26 years did I think it would be illegal for a group of people to get together.”
When events began canceling the week of March 12 as COVID-19 was spreading and executive orders shut down public gatherings, Goodwin experienced the effects.
PRI typically produced five to 15 events a day during busy times. Zero events on the schedule was “devastating.”
That week, he furloughed 80% of his staff.
“That was probably, professionally, the most emotional time in my life,” Goodwin said.
With help from a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, restructuring debt and taking money from reserves, savings and equity, Goodwin was able to bring back staff a week after they were furloughed.
Before the pandemic, Goodwin employed about 110 people, comprising full-time and part-time employees and contractors. He called back full-time workers, so staff is about 75.
Since then, PRI has not had many clients and instead has been training and learning new techniques.
There have been some jobs since the pandemic, which he described as “a few businesses that needed help with streaming, some local hospitals, several churches, a few custom build-outs for permanent installation, but nothing even remotely close to the amount of work needed.”
Goodwin said he and his team are eager to return to the normal workload.
“We are working on planning lots of live events, galas, business meetings and live productions that are projected to happen in the summer and fall,” he said.
“This time can’t come soon enough.”
Goodwin founded PRI in 1994. It is based at 1819 Kings Ave. near San Marco. Its major clients include the Jacksonville Jaguars, JAX Chamber, Tim Tebow Foundation, Jacksonville Jazz Festival and the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.
PRI Productions has survived slowdowns, including the Great Recession of 2007-09 when effects lingered for years.
“We were affected by the economic downturns of the past, but nothing compares to this,” Goodwin said.
“I believe the live-event industry is one of the hardest-hit industries and we will be the last to recover. This has been the most devastating event in all 26 years of PRI Productions. Nothing compares to this.”
Each morning at 10 a.m., Goodwin arranges a Zoom videoconference meeting for his staff, often with special guests. So far, Olympic medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, congressional candidate Donna Deegan and former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell joined the PRI meetings.
Goodwin said speakers talk about challenges they have overcome, after which he and the staff discuss what they learned and how they can apply it.
“It’s not always about trying to be a better professional. I’m asking everyone to take this time to be a better you,” he said. “As painful as it is for everyone, us included, I just want to see a better everyone, including myself.”
PRI’s offices are open and employees can come into the workplace if they choose, Goodwin said. In the coming weeks, he will figure out how to slowly bring in workers.
Goodwin said the company has events booked as soon as the beginning of June. While he thinks his segment of the event industry will be the last to recover, he and his team are ready.
“There will be a place for PRI in the world,” Goodwin said. “We plan on being there to help our clients out.”
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