Beaufort County returns to Tier 1 status by Dept. of Commerce

Published 8:12 am Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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It’s been three years since Beaufort County was labeled as a Tier 1 county by the North Carolina Department of Commerce; however, in their designations for 2024, it has downgraded Beaufort County from its previously held Tier 2 status. 

The North Carolina Department of Commerce uses several economic factors that are collected then analyzed to determine each county’s ranking which ranges from Tier 1 to Tier 3. Counties like Beaufort who receive a Tier 1 designation are “generally the most economically distressed and Tier 3 counties are generally the least economically distressed,” according to NC Commerce. 

The data NC Commerce collects on counties includes their unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and assessed property value per capita. “These rankings are used to determine state funding opportunities and change year to year based on how the County performs on those measures in relation to how all the other 99 counties perform,” Beaufort County Economic Development Director Brad Hufford said. 

Hufford continued to explain that since 2007 when NC Commerce went from having five tiers to three, Beaufort County has been a Tier 1 county for most of those years with the exception of five years when it was a Tier 2 county in 2013, 2018,2021,2022 and 2023. 

“I believe historically we are closer to a Tier 1 and for the past three years our numbers performed better in relation to the rest of the state during the Pandemic years,” he said 

Tier rankings determine which grant programs counties can apply for that come from NC Commerce like the One North Carolina Fund, building reuse and infrastructure grants in addition to the performance-based Job Development Investment Grant which places money into the Industrial Development Fund- Utility Account for infrastructure improvements in more economically distressed portions of the state. 

Being a Tier 1 county, Hufford said means it can receive “preferential treatment” and lower matching fund requirements for many NC Commerce grants and other sources of funding like Golden LEAF. 

“While not a perfect system for determining economic strength and weakness, it is the system the state uses, and we will take full advantage of the opportunity it presents. Tier 1 counties receive preferential treatment and lower matching fund requirements for many Commerce grants as well as other funders such as Golden LEAF. We will explore every opportunity to utilize our Tier 1 status to address economic challenges and opportunities as it relates to site and building development, workforce development, and new business recruitment,” Hufford said. 

In accordance with General Statute 143B-437.08, 40 counties are labeled as Tier 1, 40 counties are labeled as Tier 2 and 20 counties are labeled as Tier 3. 

Beaufort, Avery, Gates and Pasquotank will move to more distressed tier rankings while Burke, Davie, Randolph and Surry counties will move to less distressed tier rankings.