Raleigh, N.C.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the county tier designations for 2019 today.  The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development.

The 2019 rankings comply with changes made by the North Carolina General Assembly that alter the formula used to calculate final tier designations.  These changes, implemented with the adoption of the 2018 Appropriations Act (S.L. 2018-5, Section 15.2.a), eliminate several ‘adjustment factors’ previously incorporated into the methodology.  Otherwise, the formula outlined in General Statue §143B-437.08, which identifies four economic factors to be compiled and calculated by N.C. Commerce, were used to analyze and rank each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.  Each county is then assigned its 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.  The law calls for 40 counties to be designated as Tier 1, 40 counties to be designated as Tier 2, and 20 counties to be designated Tier 3.

28 counties will change tier designations for 2019.

Counties moving to a less distressed tier ranking include Alleghany, Ashe, Camden, Cherokee, Clay, Jackson, Macon, McDowell, Montgomery, Person, Yadkin, and Yancey (from Tier 1 to Tier 2); and Currituck and Davie (from Tier 2 to Tier 3).

Counties moving to a more distressed tier ranking include Beaufort, Cleveland, Cumberland, Duplin, Hoke, Nash, Rockingham, Rutherford, Sampson, Surry, Wayne, and Wilson (from Tier 2 to Tier 1); and Carteret and Granville (from Tier 3 to Tier 2).

Tier designations determine eligibility and guidelines for several different grant programs that N.C. Commerce administers including the One North Carolina Fund, 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: