Smaller groups are breaking in Lanier Technical College’s new 40,000-square-foot conference center, which sits atop a hill overlooking the equally new campus off Ga. 365 in North Hall.
But the real coming-out party is set for Dec. 13, when the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce holds its Annual Eggs & Issues breakfast.
For the event, the school will open up the center’s 20,000-square-foot ballroom, which can seat up to 780 for a banquet and as many as 1,500 theater-style.
The debut has college officials excited about the center’s potential.
“The whole purpose of this conference center and the one (at the campus) in Forsyth is economic development,” Lanier Tech President Ray Perren said while giving The Times a tour of the new center last week.
“It will allow us to bring groups in, provide training and such, but because it is so nice, we can use it for a variety of things. People will get married here.”
Perren added: “We’ve already got events booked for 1,500 people, so it’ll be used.”
The new center also will meet a growing need for a bigger meeting space in Hall County.
“As a growing community, one of the needs we have is larger spaces for allowing more people to participate (in events),” said Tim Evans, the chamber’s vice president of economic development.
“We’re looking at it for a number of future events, as well. It’s much bigger open space. It gives us more capacity for events.”
Eggs & Issues has been held at the Gainesville Civic Center at 830 Green St.
The event typically draws a huge crowd and a program that includes area lawmakers talking about the upcoming legislative session. This year, Gov. Nathan Deal is scheduled to speak, marking one of his last appearances as the state’s chief executive.
In March, more than 70 companies filled the civic center for the chamber’s annual job fair.
It was a showing that prompted Evans to say at the time, “If we had more space (at the Gainesville Civic Center), we’d probably have more companies there.”
The civic center “is still going to be the best fit for a lot of things,” Evans said last week. “I think it will be an additional option, and it’ll help meet the need and demand there is currently (in Hall). It can be challenging sometimes to find a space if you don’t give yourself enough time to book it.”
Frank Norton Jr. has scheduled his annual economic forecast at Lanier Tech’s conference center for Jan. 29, something he was considering even as he was planning the 2018 event at The Venue at Friendship Springs in South Hall.
“We’ve moved the event around, trying to go to ground zero for the electricity that’s going on in that area,” Norton said in January.
“I’m excited about being at the new venue,” he said last week. “It’s a great convention/meeting facility for Hall County.”
Jeff Pruitt, who opened the conference center at Lanier Tech’s Forsyth County campus, will run the new center in Hall.
“This (venue) is fabulous,” he said. “The capabilities and vision for this center and the community are just unbelievable.”
The ballroom has nine sections that can be used in “multiple configurations,” Pruitt said.
“We can roll in boats, cars, just do all kinds of applications here,” Perren added.
The ballroom may be the main attraction, but the center offers much more.
The center also will house the college’s culinary arts program.
“I’m just so proud of how well equipped it is,” Perren said.
The lobby, which has stacked stone and natural wood in its design, will serve as a “pre-function” area for receptions and event gathering space.
Also offered are meeting and executive boardrooms with the latest technology, including one room that has inside and outside areas separated by a double-sided fireplace. The outside area also gives visitors views of woods and a lake below.
A boardroom also provides big views of the outdoors.
Perren said he has kidded staff, “If you ever miss me, this is where I’ll be, with this beautiful view.”
The outside meeting space also features the college’s original 1964 dedication plaque bolted to the fireplace.
That’s meant as a tribute to the college’s past.
“Even though this is a new campus, we’re not a new college,” Perren said.