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Rankings indicate worsening, improving economic conditions

The N.C. Department of Commerce announced the end of November that it has changed the economic rankings for 13 of North Carolina’s 100 counties for 2014.

The county tier rankings are, according to a release from the department, mandated by state law. They also determine whether a county is eligible for a variety of economic development assistance programs.

According to the department, Cherokee, McDowell and Yancey counties in Western North Carolina will move from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 ranking, which indicates improving economic conditions. Haywood County will shift from a Tier 3 to a Tier 2 ranking, indicating worsening conditions.

“Our mission is to enhance job opportunities for all North Carolinians, no matter where they live in the state,” said Secretary Sharon Decker in a press release about the 2014 designations. “The tier rankings provide critical tools that help us in various economic development programs and ultimately, help attract businesses to the state.”

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Tier 1 counties are known to be the most economically distressed counties, and Tier 3 are the least. State law calls for the 40 most distressed counties to become Tier 1 counties, the next 40 counties to be designated as Tier 2 and the 20 most prosperous counties to become Tier 3 counties.

According to the department, the rankings are based on an assessment of each county’s unemployment rate, median household income, population growth, and assessed property value per capita. Any county with a population of less than 12,000 or a county with a population of fewer than 50,000 residents with 19 percent or more residents living below the federal poverty level are automatically designated as among the most distressed counties.

Tier designations determine eligibility for a number of different grant programs that the N.C. Department of Commerce administers, including the building reuse and restoration, water and sewer infrastructure and economic innovation in rural communities grants. Tier designations are also a factor in the state’s performance-based economic development incentive programs, the One North Carolina fund and the Job Development Investment Grant program.

For more information about the tier designation system, visit http://www.nccommerce.com/research-publications/incentive-reports/county-tier-designations.


WNC counties’ economic designations

Here is a listing of the tier designations for the 18 westernmost counties of the state.

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If a county is ranked at a Tier 3, it is considered to be among the 20 most prosperous counties in North Carolina. If it is ranked as a Tier 2, it is considered to be among the 40 counties in the middle. If it is ranked as a Tier 1 county, it is among the 40 most distressed counties in the state.

Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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