Now that the planning and design work for the new conference center at Lanier Islands is nearing completion, Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority officials say they hope that site work can begin before the end of the year.

The RFQ/RPF bid processes began in mid-July with a timetable to have a decision naming the lead construction firm for the conference center by mid-October.

At its August meeting, the LLIDA board appointed a subcommittee to manage the proposal review process and make a recommendation to the board at its next meeting on October 11. Daniel Dooley will chair the subcommittee that includes board members Jeff Payne and Stephen Syfan.

“We could be moving dirt in October,” said Bill Donohue, executive director of the authority.

The project, which includes the 115,000-square-foot conference center and a separate 300-room hotel to be built on the site of the former PineIsle Hotel, has been in the works for five years. The state has invested $62 million in the public-private partnership with Lake Lanier Islands Management, which operates the resort.

New board members appointed by Governor Brian Kemp

Three new members attended their first LLIDA board meeting in August. They are:

W. Carter Patterson is the CEO of Forte Data Systems, a software company in Forsyth County. The company has focused on providing technology solutions to the automotive extended-service contract industry. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he also owns Cumming Cigars.

Stephen Syfan is the co-founder and executive vice president of Syfan Logistics and Turbo Truck Center in Gainesville. He started in the logistics field in 1984 with his brother Greg and his father Jim. Syfan previously served on the Georgia Board of Economic Development.

Jeff Payne is an active alumnus and trustee of the University of North Georgia Foundation and a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia. He retired from his Gainesville-based practice, North Georgia Eye Clinic, in 2021. Payne is chairman of Capstone Property Group, which is developing The National, a hotel and apartment project in downtown Gainesville. Jeff formerly served on the Georgia World Congress Center Authority.

They are replacing three members who rotated off the LLIDA Board this year:

John Kieffer served on the board from May 2009 through June 2022. During his tenure, he served as vice chairman, chairman of the infrastructure committee and chair of the conference center committee.

Michael Bennett served on the board from December 2011 through May 2022.

Jim Syfan served on the board from December 2020 through June 2022. During that time, he served as secretary/treasurer and member of the conference center committee. Jim was appointed to the Board of Regents.

The next LLIDA Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 11. For more information, visit