12-5-2022 – Report shows county’s economic growth continued

Posted on: December 5th, 2022 by admin No Comments


December 5 2022



Dec 2, 2022 Updated Dec 2, 2022


CALDWELL COUNTY — A new report shows that Caldwell County continues to improve its financial situation as it moves out of a Tier 1 designation (most economically distressed) to Tier 2.


The North Carolina Department of Commerce released the county tier designations for 2023 on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The designations, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in economic development.


“The EDC has worked persistently and diligently over the last decade to diversify and grow our local economy,” said Deborah Murray, executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission. “Good work and hard work produces long term and sustaining growth. We have seen this in the numbers produced over these last few years. Both the recent announcements for Tier designation and average private sector wages evidence this.”


The 2023 rankings comply with the methodology prescribed by the North Carolina General Assembly in General Statue §143B-437.08, which identifies four economic factors to be compiled and calculated by N.C. Commerce and then used to analyze and rank each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Each county is then assigned its 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.


“Tier 1 counties, because they are the most economically distressed, receive the maximum dollars available for state incentives. Tier 2 counties may occasionally receive less but this in no way will affect any current grants or incentives we have,” Murray said. “We have moved to Tier 2 but will continue to be able to apply for state incentives when they are appropriate.”


Tier rankings are based on four measurements: adjusted property tax base per capita for the most recent fiscal year (FY 2021-2022); percentage growth in population for the most recent 36 months (July 2017 through July 2020); median household income for the most recent 12 months for which data is available (2019 U.S. Census Small Area Income & Poverty Estimates); and average unemployment rate for the most recent 12 months (October 2020 to September 2021).


State 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.


For 2023, the North Carolina Department of Commerce reported that Caldwell County is shifting from Tier 1 to Tier 2. The county’s economic distress rank is #42 (compared to #37 in 2022).


According to Murray, unemployment has been key to Caldwell’s comeback since the Great Recession and the pandemic. Caldwell posted an annual 3.6% unemployment rate, which moved the ranking from #38 last year to #54 this year.


Murray also said that Caldwell County continued to show anticipated gains in three categories. The county ranked 45 out of 100 counties with a $101,659 adjusted property tax base per capita and a very strong 16.15% year over year growth. Over the last eight years, Caldwell has seen 43% growth.


Population growth has been slow to take hold in Caldwell County, but the county managed to document 0.24% growth year over year, ranking #41 in this category.


Median household income is a significant reason for Caldwell’s growth, showing a 15.94% year over year growth. Since 2014, Caldwell residents have seen a 44% growth in median household income.


Additionally, the 2023 North Carolina Private Sector Average Wage Report was recently released. Produced by the N.C. Department of Commerce, Labor and Economic Analysis Division, the report ranks all 100 of North Carolina’s counties by annualized average wages using the most recent four quarters (Q3 2021 through Q2 2022). The report is based on what county employers pay without regard for where employees may live.


Caldwell County employers posted record wages again in the 2023 Report. The new average wage for Caldwell County is $48,482. This represents a one year increase of 10.4%. In comparison, Catawba posted a new average wage of $52,172, an 8.6% year over year increase. Burke County posted a new average wage of $43,261, a 9.52% annual increase.


Since 2015, Caldwell has increased its average wage by $16,473 per wage earner, totaling 51.5% wage growth over eight years. During the same period of time, Catawba has increased its average wage by $15,426 and Burke has increased its average wage by $10,328.


Caldwell moved from 28th highest to 20th highest average private sector wage in this year’s rankings. The state’s highest average wages were in Durham County with $86,686, followed by Mecklenburg with $80,349, and Wake with $72,743. Other counties in the top 20 were Iredell with $64,433, Catawba with $52,172, Buncombe with $51,080, and Lincoln with $49,332.


Other counties moving to a less distressed tier ranking include Avery (Tier 3), Cleveland (Tier 2), Pasquotank (Tier 2), and Swain (Tier 2). Counties moving to a more distressed tier ranking include Onslow (Tier 1), Pitt (Tier 1), Randolph (Tier 1), Surry (Tier 1), and Transylvania (Tier 2).


Tier designations determine eligibility and guidelines for several different grant programs that N.C. Commerce administers including the One North Carolina Fund, building reuse, and water and sewer infrastructure grants among others. 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 into more economically distressed areas of the state.


“We most frequently use building reuse grants which do take tier rankings into consideration,” said Murray. “In this case, the average wage is more significant. Reuse grants are very competitive and are awarded based on companies who pledge wages at or above the county’s average wage for the year. As our wages increase, it does become more challenging for companies to pledge significant numbers of jobs at these wages. At the same time, the types of companies we have recruited and expanded have consistently raised our wages which benefits us all. At the end of the day, significant and improved opportunity and quality of life in Caldwell result.”


For more information about the tier designation system, visit nccommerce.com/grants-incentives/county-distress-rankings-tiers.

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