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

Payton Heins to Lead NLEA

The Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) today announced the hiring of its new leader. Payton Heins has been named the president of the organization and will begin work on Jan. 8, 2024.

Heins comes to the NLEA from the Michigan Office of Rural Prosperity where she is the Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives focusing on issues of housing, workforce retention and attraction, economic development, and business growth in rural communities. Prior to her work for a state agency, she led the Michigan statewide operations for the Center for Community Progress, a national non-profit organization that focuses on community revitalization and restoring blighted properties. With a strong background in community and economic development, real estate, policy work, and non-profit management, Heins brings a diverse skillset to the position.

“We feel like we found an individual who strikes that perfect balance of someone with a strong economic development skillset with experience in running an organization,” said Carlin Smith, the NLEA’s Chairman of the Board. “Plus she brings with her strong connections around the state as well as a comprehensive understanding of programs that can be better utilized here in northern Michigan,” Smith added.

Smith said Heins demonstrated passion and thoroughness during the interview process and brought a great vision for the NLEA. “She really did her homework and conveyed to the search committee a positive message about where she wants to take the organization,” he added.

Heins is from the Antrim County community of Alden and is looking forward to serving her home region. Coming from a family of small business owners and having spent her career in community and economic development, Heins is passionate about fostering an environment for businesses and communities to thrive.

She sees the NLEA as being poised for continued success and evolution. “I’m excited to join the NLEA’s very talented staff and dedicated board to continue to build on the organization’s impactful work,” Heins said. She says she understands the critical role an economic development organization plays in helping communities and businesses find resources and connect with key partners to resolve complex issues. “I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of this work and the necessity of an organization like the NLEA; I’m really looking forward to getting to work,” she added.

The NLEA’s previous president is David Emmel and he has continued to support the organization on a part-time basis through this transition period. Emmel plans to retire when the transition is complete.

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