Providing resources for communities and entrepreneurs to create and retain jobs in Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan & Emmet Counties.

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance Staff

Payton Heins, CEcD

As President, Payton leads economic development strategy through collaboration with local, state, and national organizations and stakeholders. Payton works with the Board of Directors to steer the NLEA and oversees day-to-day operations.

Chris Bauer
Community and Economic Development Manager

As the Community and Economic Development Manager, Chris serves as a bridge between private sector economic development and public sector community development. He focuses on building programs that strengthen NLEA’s portfolio and value to our service area.

Jessica Lovay
Community Development and Grants Specialist

As Community Development and Grants Specialist, Jess is focused on transformational place-based development projects and initiatives throughout Northern Lower Michigan. Jess helps local units of governments and businesses to leverage financial programs to service their infrastructure and redevelop properties.

Sam Bailey 2021 NLEA Summer Intern

Sam Bailey
Strategic Initiatives Manager 

As Strategic Initiatives Manager, Sam is responsible for strategic projects and initiatives, business intelligence, and educational programming. He leads preparations for the NLEA’s premier educational event, the Northern Lakes Economic Symposium and Showcase. Additionally, he provides business intelligence and economic research to the organization, its investors, and other community stakeholders.


NLEA Summer Interns

For eight years, the DTE Energy Foundation has provided funding for our NLEA Summer Internship program. This program enables the NLEA to provide a “real world” opportunity for area college students to work on a meaningful project that benefits the region. The students’ skill sets and courses of study are matched to the project to give them experience working in their field.

Thomas Reid III

2023-24 NLEA/DTE Energy Foundation Intern


Visit the links below to learn more about past internship projects:

2020 How it’s Made in Northern Michigan Project

2019 Featured Sites Project

2018 Entrepreneurial Toolkit Project

2017 Broadband Project

2016 Hot Jobs Project




Core Partners

Get the NLEA E-Newsletter
Be in the know about programs and events to benefit your communities and businesses.