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Caldwell, Onslow, Pitt, Wilkes counties join "Most Economically Distressed" ranks

The North Carolina Department of Commerce released new county tier designations for 2020 on Wednesday.

The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development.

Eight counties will change tier designations for 2020.

Counties moving to a more distressed tier ranking include Caldwell, Onslow, Pitt, and Wilkes. Counties moving to a less distressed tier ranking include Cleveland, Gates, Hoke, and Surry.

The 2020 rankings comply with the methodology prescribed by the North Carolina General Assembly, which identified four economic factors to be compiled and calculated  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.

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.