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Hertford Co. returns to Tier 1

AHOSKIE – Hertford County is back to Tier 1.

Economic Development Director Bill Early informed the Hertford County Commissioners of the designation at Monday’s meeting held in the Small Business Center on the campus of Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

Each year the North Carolina Department of Commerce ranks the counties in Tiers 1-5 based on population growth, per capita income and unemployment rates. Tier 1 counties are those who are the most distressed economically.

While the new numbers mean that Hertford County has dropped since last year’s Tier 3 status, Early said he felt it was the correct designation.

&uot;A lot of people were unhappy about the designation last year,&uot; Early said. &uot;While it showed we are improving, it hurt what kind of incentives we were able to offer.&uot;

The director said he was one of several people who worked to have the Department of Commerce change the way they do the rankings. Instead of taking several years into account, they now do it based on a year-to-year formula.

Hertford County’s actual designation was in Tier 2, but it was dropped to Tier 1 because of a combination of the county’s population and poverty rate.

The reason the county would have been a Tier 2 has much to do with the low rate of unemployment, according to Early. He said the county average of 4.33 percent was significantly lower than the state level of 5.47 percent.

The per capita income is based on the 2001-2002 figures and will probably grow after the figures update in the upcoming years to include Nucor and Rivers Correctional Institute, according to Early.

&uot;My gut feeling is eventually we will move to Tier 2 and stay there for quite some time,&uot; he said. &uot;That says Hertford County is making progress and that’s where we want to be.&uot;

Early said the 2002 numbers showed Hertford County with a Distressed County Rank of nine while last year’s figures shot up to 55.

This year’s designation is 24 and that is closer to the truth than either of the other numbers, he said.

Early also said that while he understood some citizen’s frustrations over a lack of overall growth, he would point to the recession and remind people that many counties had lost business in the last couple of years.

&uot;We have been fortunate in that we have not had major closings and layoffs here,&uot; Early said. &uot;I know some people have been upset about not growing, but we have held our own while many others in the state have fallen backwards.&uot;

Early also requested the board reappoint Percy Bunch to Hertford County Planning Board and Board of Adjustment.

On a motion by Commissioner Johnny Ray Farmer, seconded by Commissioner John Pierce, the board voted unanimously (4-0) to support the motion. Commissioner Curtis Freeman was not present.