First Posted: 12/3/2014
LUMBERTON — For the seventh year in a row, the North Carolina Department of Commerce has labeled Robeson County among the state’s most economically distressed counties — a classification that could lead to grant opportunities.
The department recently released its county tier designations for 2015. The designations, which are mandated by state law, determine a variety of funding opportunities to assist in economic development. Robeson is listed as Tier 1, the most distressed.
“No matter where you live in North Carolina our goal is to spark economic development and enhance job opportunities all across the state,” said Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker, who announced earlier this week she was resigning that position. “The tier rankings help us in various economic development programs to attract businesses to the state.”
The department gathers required statistics for each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, applies the formula and assigns a tier designation ranking from one to three. Tier 1 counties are the most economically distressed and Tier 3 counties are the least economically distressed. Businesses that locate in Tier 1 or Tier 2 counties can be eligible for some grant programs.
“Basically, those counties that are in Tier 1 will be given preference for money,” said Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s director of Economic Development. “There are some financial advantages of being a Tier 1 as far as qualifying for grants for programs.”
Nine counties will change tier designations for 2015. Ashe, Macon and Nash counties will shift from a Tier 2 to a Tier 1 ranking. Guilford County will change from a Tier 3 to a Tier 2 ranking. Burke, Caldwell, Hoke and Mitchell counties will move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 counties. Haywood County will shift from Tier 2 to Tier 3.
The 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.
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 fewer 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 designated as among the most distressed counties.
Tier designations determine eligibility for a number of different grant programs that the department administers, including Building Reuse, Water and Sewer Infrastructure and the Downtown Revitalization Main Street program. Tier designations are also a factor in the state’s performance-based Job Development Investment Grant program.