Archived Story

The good with the bad

Published 8:07pm Thursday, November 29, 2012

On the surface, it appears to be good news that Beaufort County is moving in the right direction economically. After being ranked among the 40 poorest counties in North Carolina for at least five years, Beaufort County Manager Randell Woodruff announced in an email Thursday that the county will be classified as a Tier 2 county beginning Jan. 1, 2013, as determined by the N.C. Department of Commerce.

After collecting annual economic data from all 100 counties, the Department of Commerce uses a statutory formula to rank each county. Indicators such as unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and assessed property value per capita figure into the equation.

The 40 most economically distressed counties are classified as Tier 1. The 20 most-affluent are ranked as Tier 3. The 40 counties between are Tier 2.

With a population of fewer than 50,000 residents, Beaufort County had been automatically designated as a Tier 1 county because of its 19.5 percent poverty level.

That changed when the county poverty level dropped to 17.2 percent and Beaufort County properties increased in value.

While we celebrate our improved economic status, we bemoan the loss of economic-development incentives available to the state’s poorest regions from the Department of Commerce. Qualified businesses that locate in lower-tiered counties are eligible for some grant programs and larger tax credits than those that locate in higher-ranked areas.

“I think it’s bittersweet,” Beaufort County Economic Development Director Bob Heuts told the Daily News on Thursday.

Heuts now faces the formidable challenge of promoting Beaufort County without the tax credits for job creation and grant opportunities that go along with Tier 1 status.

“I’ve been in a Tier 2 county for years, and we tried to get anything we could get,” Heuts said about his time as head of economic development in Lee County. “That’s our job. And I will do the same thing here.”

Our wish is that the appeal of a developing county will offset the loss of incentives, allowing Heuts to recruit businesses that keep us from returning to Tier 1 status.

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