RALEIGH, N.C.  ― The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the county tier designations for 2016 today.  The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development.

Using a formula outlined in General Statue §143B-437.08, the N.C. 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 1 counties are generally the most economically distressed and Tier 3 counties are generally the least economically distressed.

The rankings are based on an assessment of each county’s unemployment rate, median household income, population growth, and assessed property value per capita. In addition, 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 of those people living below the federal poverty level are automatically classified as Tier 1. The law calls for the 40 lowest ranked counties to become Tier 1 counties, the next 40 counties to be designated as Tier 2 and the 20 highest ranked counties to become Tier 3 counties.

Eight counties will change tier designations for 2016.  Caldwell, McDowell and Yancey counties will shift from a Tier 2 to a Tier 1 ranking. Haywood County will change from a Tier 3 to a Tier 2 ranking. Rockingham, Surry, and Wilson counties will move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 counties. Guilford County will shift from Tier 2 to Tier 3.

Tier designations determine eligibility for a number of different grant programs that the N.C. Department of Commerce administers including building reuse, water and sewer infrastructure, and the downtown revitalization Main Street program.  Tier designations also play a role in the state’s performance-based Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program, serving as a mechanism to channel funds for infrastructure improvements to less populated areas of the state.
For more information about the tier designation system visit:

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