Beaufort County unable to shake its Tier 1 status

Published 1:33 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2008

By Staff
Once again, countyis among 40 poorestcounties in the state
Staff Writer
Beaufort County — again — is one of the state’s most economically distressed counties, according to ratings announced Monday by Jim Fain, North Carolina’s secretary of commerce.
The county received a Tier 1 designation, which is given to the 40 most-distressed counties in the state and entitles the county to extra growth incentives. The designation is for 2009.
Hyde, Martin and Washington counties are also Tier 1 designees for 2009.
Tier 1 counties can offer businesses $12,500 in tax credits per new job and a 7-percent tax credit for certain property expenditures. The 40 middlingly distressed Tier 2 counties can offer $5,000 per job and 5-percent tax credits on property expenditures. The 20 least-distressed counties, called Tier 3 counties, get only $750 per job and 3.5.-percent tax credits on property expenditures.
Also, the minimum number of jobs created and minimum amount of money invested for the tax credits to kick in is substantially lower in Tier 1 counties.
The designations are based on a formula written by the General Assembly that involves each county’s unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and assessed property value per capita.
The credits are part of a push to counterbalance the disadvantages rural counties face in recruiting businesses, said Deborah Barnes, spokeswoman for Fain’s office.
The financial benefits are a powerful silver lining to the black cloud that is word that the county is among the poorest in the state, according to county officials.
County Manager Paul Spruill expressed similar sentiments.
But Beaufort County still must compete with 39 economically distressed counties for that state aid.
The current, three-tier system is the result of a 2006 law. Before that, there were 5 tiers designated, and Beaufort County was still among the poorest.
Barnes said the changes were made for a number of reasons, among them an effort to cut the frequency with which counties move from tier to tier.
She said the new system means that businesses can plan more effectively on what type of tax credits they will receive for investing in specific counties.
This year, Duplin, Wayne and Yancey counties moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2; Craven County moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3; Franklin County dropped from Tier 3 to Tier 2; and Chowan and Wilkes Counties moved from Tier 2 to Tier 1.