11/30/2017 – Caldwell County improves economic status to Tier 2 in state rankings

Posted on: November 30th, 2017 by admin


November 30, 2017


By Guy Lucas
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Showing improvement in every economic indicator, Caldwell County has emerged – for the second time – from being labeled one of the state’s most economically distressed counties.


Caldwell showed growth in its tax base, population, median household income, and unemployment rate – the four main factors used to rank counties to determine whether they are economically distressed. The county’s four-year poverty rate also declined.


Combined, the improvement prompted the N.C. Department of Commerce to change Caldwell from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 county in its annual Development Tier Designations. The 40 counties designated Tier 1 are considered most in need of economic help, and the designation can assist them in getting certain grants and other aid. The 20 counties that are best off are Tier 3.


Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Deborah Murray said she was “incredibly proud” of the new Tier 2 ranking.


“We have worked diligently to regain that position,” Murray said. “The EDC’s mission is to increase tax base, jobs, and incomes – the improvement from Tier 1 to Tier 2 is documentation of the progress the county has made in each of these areas … The most significant aspect is that these measurements represent growth that bodes well for all of Caldwell County residents. It is one of the best indicators of the improving economic health of our county.”


Caldwell saw the greatest improvement in its property tax base per capita, which is the total property value in the county divided by the county’s population. It went from $77,580 in 2016 – 63rd out of 100 counties – to $80,124, or 59th, as the county’s official population increased by 221 people to 82,517.


Murray has pointed to the growth in the county’s tax base in recent years as an indicator of growing business investment and success. Over the past five years, the overall value of property in Caldwell County has grown 10.6 percent to a total of $5.8 billion, and property tax revenue rose from $38.8 million in 2013 – little changed from the previous three years – to $43.4 million in 2016, according to county tax figures Murray cited at a meeting of the Caldwell County EDC Board of Directors in October.


Median household income rose by 2.5 percent, from $38,653 to $39,636, the new Department of Commerce report said. That builds on the previous year’s growth of about 11 percent.


The average annual unemployment rate also declined from 5.51 percent to 4.63 percent.


The five-year poverty rate dropped from 20.5 percent in 2010-14 to 19.6 percent in 2011-15.


The state first designated Caldwell as Tier 1 in 2005 following waves of layoffs in the furniture industry, and it remained Tier 1 until 2014, when Caldwell County barely inched out of Tier 1 status despite ranking as the 22nd most economically distressed county, according to the four main factors. In 2015, two other counties leapfrogged past Caldwell, just enough to push it back to Tier 1 status. Last year, the county had far better numbers but by law had to remain a Tier 1 county for a second year.


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