R-C area Tier status unchanged

Published 11:09 am Monday, December 4, 2017

All four Roanoke-Chowan area counties will maintain their current Tier 1 designations, according to an announcement made earlier this week by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development.

Using a formula outlined in General Statue §143B-437.08, N.C. Commerce gathers required statistics for each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, applies the formula and required adjustments, and assigns a tier designation ranking from one to three. Tier 1 counties are generally the most economically distressed and Tier 3 counties are generally the least economically distressed.

The rankings are based on an assessment of each county’s unemployment rate, median household income, population growth, and assessed property value per capita. In addition, any county with a population of less than 12,000 or a county with a population of fewer than 50,000 residents with 19 percent or more of those people living below the federal poverty level are automatically classified as Tier 1.

The law calls for 40 counties to be designated as Tier 1, 40 counties to be designated as Tier 2, and 20 counties to be designated Tier 3.

In the case of the Roanoke-Chowan area counties (Bertie, Gates, Hertford, and Northampton), each has experienced a slight decline in population since the 2010 U.S. Census.

The most recent study (performed in 2015) showed Bertie’s estimated median family income at $40,939 annually. The county’s unemployment rate (based on preliminary numbers from June of this year) is 5.7 percent. Bertie’s property tax rate is 83 cents (per $100 of value).

Of Bertie’s estimated population (based on 2015 numbers) of 20,518, 22.3 percent (4,304) are living on an income below poverty level. Bertie is also an aging county with 19.2 percent of its citizens as age 65-and-over.

In Gates County, the estimated median family income is $55,237. The county boasts of a low unemployment rate (4.2 percent) and has the lowest property tax rate (76 cents) in the R-C area.

The 2015 population estimate listed Gates County with 11,724 residents, of which 17 percent (1,991) are age 65-and-over. The county has 14.2 percent (1,651) of its citizens living on an income below the poverty level.

Another item of interest in Gates County is where its workforce is employed. Nearly half (49 percent: 2,361) of the county’s residents work at jobs out of state. Another 21.5 percent (1,034) work in North Carolina, but not in Gates County. A shade over 20 percent of the county’s workforce list their travel time to their jobs at one hour or more.

Despite a slight decline, Hertford County remains as the most populated area in the Roanoke-Chowan. Of its estimated 24,368 citizens, 17 percent (4,157) are ages 65-and-over. The county also has a large number of its citizens (25.6 percent: 5,475) living on incomes that are below poverty level.

In contrast to the Gates workforce having to travel outside the county to their jobs, the majority of employed Hertford County residents remain within the county’s borders.  Of Hertford’s workforce totaling 8,492, 67.1 percent (5,695) are employed within the county.

Hertford County’s median family income annually is listed at $41,278. Its jobless rate (as of June, 2017) stood at 5.5 percent and its current property tax rate is 84 cents.

The 2015 estimate places Northampton’s population at 21,011. Ages 65-and-over represent the largest majority of the population (4,643 or 22.1 percent; the second largest age group is 0-19: 4,568 or 21.8 percent of the total population).

Sadly, Northampton has the highest percentage locally of its citizens living on incomes below the poverty level. That number is nearly 30 percent (28.1%) representing 5,658 individuals.

Northampton’s estimated median family income is $36,998 annually. The county’s unemployment rate was 5.8 percent in June of this year. Meanwhile, its 92-cent property tax rate is the highest in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

According to the 2018 map showing tier designations, the majority (19) of Tier 1 counties are in the eastern part of the state. In addition to the Roanoke-Chowan area counties maintaining their Tier 1 status next year, so will Halifax, Chowan, Martin and Edgecombe.

Meanwhile, six counties will change tier designations for 2018.  Lenoir and Perquimans will shift from a Tier 2 to a Tier 1 ranking.  Forsyth County will change from a Tier 3 to a Tier 2 ranking. Beaufort and Caldwell counties will move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 status. Granville County will shift from Tier 2 to Tier 3.

Tier designations determine eligibility for a number of different grant programs that N.C. Commerce administers including building reuse, water and sewer infrastructure, and the downtown revitalization Main Street program.  Tier designations also play a role in the state’s performance-based Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program, serving as a mechanism to channel funds for infrastructure improvements to less populated areas of the state.

For more information about the tier designation system visit:


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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