County remains in tier designation

Dec. 22, 2013 @ 11:00 AM

In 2007, the North Carolina General Assembly established a tier system to determine need for state funding regarding economic development opportunities.

Since that time, Rutherford County has been listed as  Tier I county, among the most distressed and considered first for possible state funding.

That's not changing in 2014 but county officials said the outlook is getting brighter.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce released its 2014 Tier Designations and Rutherford County remained in the most distressed tier but Economic Development Commission Director Matt Blackwell said the county is on the rise.

He said the county is ranked 38th out of the 41 counties in the first tier, meaning it is moving towards a rise to Tier II.

Since 2007, the county has been able to utilize its designation to acquire additional grant funding for economic development purposes.

Rutherford County scored in the middle of the state in adjusted property tax base per capita, averaging $81,125 and in population growth (1.25 percent).The average household income remained in the bottom third of the entire state with an average of $35,208. The county also averaged in the bottom five in unemployment at 12.95 percent.

Despite the mixture of good and bad, the county still increased its rank in the state overall and is on the verge of moving to another tier.

If and when the county moves to Tier II, it will be a mixed blessing for economic development in the county.

"It is good news as we are seeing an improvement in the economy," Blackwell said. "The bad news is we will be able to leverage less funding for job creation."

For 2014, six counties moved from Tier I to Tier II, including McDowell and Yancy counties.

In its report, McDowell County advanced its property tax base and increased its median household income and reduced its unemployment rate.

Seven counties dropped to a more distressed designation. Haywood County was the only western North Carolina county to drop — moving from Tier II to Tier III.

Jones County, located along the eastern coast of the state, was the state with the highest rank, as the most distressed county in the state. Chatham County had the lowest rank.