County drop in state economic rankings opens doors to grant funding

Published 7:26 pm Friday, December 7, 2018

A change in Beaufort County’s statewide economic ranking, and subsequent tier designation, may open the door to new grant opportunities and job creation, according to a press release issued by county government.

Under state law, counties are divided into three tiers, based upon their overall economic health. The lowest ranking 40 counties are designated as Tier 1 counties — the most economically distressed. In the 2019 rankings, Beaufort County ranks 40th out of 100, the top position in the Tier 1 designation.

“Generally, the county (economy) has been relatively static at the county level,” Beaufort County Economic Development Director Martyn Johnson said. “Somewhat, the west side of the county has grown, while the east side of the county has somewhat declined over the years. So that has led, on average, to us being stable. Many other counties to our north have actually declined more than we have. Our proximity to Greenville has helped us be relatively stable.”

While this may seem like bad news at first glance, the change in designation may in fact be a good thing for the local economy. Being designated a Tier 1 county opens the door for the county and municipalities to apply for a variety of grant programs inaccessible to Tier 2 and Tier 3 counties.

These programs include funding for projects such as building reuse, water and sewer infrastructure and downtown revitalization projects. Likewise, the designation may allow the county to pursue funding to assist in job creation projects and infrastructure improvements.

“The local match for those programs will be less, given that we’re now a Tier 1,” Johnson said. “With our limited resources, we will be able to attract more resources from the state.”

The North Carolina Department of Commerce is responsible for ranking county economies throughout the state based on factors including average unemployment rate, median household income, percentage growth in population and adjusted property tax per capita.

According to a press release from the county government, Beaufort County experienced relative decreases in three of these factors compared to other North Carolina counties during the past year. The release goes on to state that the county still ranks high in adjusted property tax base per capita — 68th in the state — thanks in part to large investments in the mining and manufacturing sectors.

“When we were a Tier 2, we were a low Tier 2. We were in a group with communities much larger than ours.” Johnson said. “As a Tier 1, we’re the 40th of 40, which is the top of the Tier 1. We get the advantages of being a Tier 1, but not the disadvantages of being at the bottom of the distress level.”

For more information about the NCDOC tier designation system, visit