The N.C. Department of Commerce has released the county tier designations for 2017. The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development. Yadkin County is among the 10 counties whose tier designations will be changing.
Cherokee, Mitchell, Person and Yadkin counties will shift from a Tier Two to a Tier One ranking. Guilford County will change from a Tier Three to a Tier Two ranking. Lenoir, Nash, Perquimans and Rutherford counties will move from Tier One to Tier Two counties. Haywood County will shift from Tier Two to Tier Three.
“The designation determines 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,” said Bobby Todd, executive director of the Yadkin County Economic Development Council. “Tier designations are also a factor in the state’s performance-based economic development incentive programs. So in certain grant programs administrated by the state, we will be able to qualify for additional funding or score higher for approved projects.”
The rankings are based on an assessment of each county’s unemployment rate, median household income, population growth, and assessed property value per capita. Using a formula outlined in General Statute §143B-437.08, the Department of Commerce gathers required statistics for each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, applies the formula and required adjustments, and assigns a tier designation ranking from one to three.
Tier One counties are generally the most economically distressed and Tier Three counties are generally the least economically distressed. The law calls for 40 counties to be designated as Tier One, 40 counties to be designated as Tier Two, and 20 counties to be designated Tier Three. Tier designations determine eligibility for a number of different grant programs that the N.C. Department of Commerce administers.
The County Tier statute further specifies automatic qualifying criteria for Tier One and Tier Two status: Tier One Automatic Qualifiers: a county must be Tier One for at least two consecutive years, a county with less than 12,000 people, a county with a population less than 50,000 people and a poverty rate of 19 percent or greater.
Yadkin hit the automatic qualifier since the poverty rate exceeded 19 percent in 2014 figures, Todd said.