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Business Observer Thursday, Mar. 26, 2020 6 months ago

Cleaning companies grapple with business overload

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Industrial and decontamination cleanup companies are the low-hanging fruit of business increases as the pandemic plays out.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Crews with Bio-One, a franchise decontamination cleanup company with locations in Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando, are the kinds of workers who, based on a bevy of bizarre assignments, have seen it all.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic.  

Now those crews can add some never-done-before tasks to their portfolio: In the past three weeks, they’ve cleaned the insides of buses, taxi cabs and tractor trailers, area Bio-One Owner Robert Reilly says, all to remove any particles of the virus that’s gripped the world. That’s in addition to multiple structures, from a 500,000-square-foot factory to a 1,200-square-foot apartment complex clubhouse.

“Anyone who’s worried about people having [the coronavirus] or thinking somebody has it in the workplace, they are calling us,” Riley says. “There was a little bit of a delay in the beginning, and then about two weeks ago our phone lines just lit up like crazy. We are working day and night, getting calls on all sorts of places for all sorts of clients.”

Like Bio-One, crews of Tampa-based Spaulding Decon, which also normally handle an eclectic mix of crime scenes, meth labs and hoarder homes, are swamped with a surge in coronavirus pandemic work.

Courtesy. Madison Rybeck, with Tampa-based Spaulding Decon, outside a client's property in Atlanta.

Laura Spaulding, a Tampa native and former Kansas City police officer, founded the company when she saw the need firsthand in 2005. It now has 24 franchise locations nationwide, in addition to the Tampa office. “It’s been crazy the amount of work we have had,” Spaulding says. “We are totally slammed.”

How crazy and slammed? During the middle weeks of March, Spaulding says the company did some $30 million in estimates. In a normal two-week period of any month, it usually fields calls for about $100,000 in work. At industry standard rates of $0.30 to $4 a square foot, that’s a lot of potential coronavirus spaces to clean.

The Tampa Spaulding Decon office has gone on the road too, by flying crews and shipping gear to locations where it doesn’t have a presence, including Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. Spaulding says clients have included banks, cubicle-farm offices and property management firms.  

Both Spaulding Decon and Bio-One have hired additional front-line employees to keep up with the demand. That includes five new people at Spaulding Decon, which brings the total to 11, and three at Bio-One, which brings the total to seven. The companies expect to hire more people in the coming weeks.

Both businesses, the owners say, also use the latest in EPA-approved decontamination cleaning products, and all the employees wear full hazmat suits and connected breathing gear.

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