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McDowell County shows continued economic improvement and is still ranked as a Tier Two county.

Since 2007, the state of North Carolina has used a three-level system for designating economic development tiers.

These designations are mandated by state law and are incorporated into various state grant and incentive programs. The purpose of these tiers “is to encourage more balanced growth between counties that are wealthier and those that are less so,” said McDowell Economic Development Director Chuck Abernathy.

A Tier One county is among the most distressed economically and include the 40 lowest counties. Tier Two counties include the next 40 counties, which are in the middle and less economically distressed. And, the least distressed number 20 counties and they are designated as Tier Three. McDowell County was designated a Tier Two last year and will continue in 2020 with this designation, according to a news release.

County Commission Chairman David Walker said even though the Tier Two makes participating in certain programs more difficult that he was pleased by the improvement.

“We want to improve our rankings and even become a Tier Three,” he said. “This is positive for the people.”

Four factors are used to rank the counties by economic tiers. The factors include the average unemployment rate, the median family income, the percentage of population growth and the adjusted property tax rate on a per capita basis.

The formula also ranks all 100 counties in addition to designating a tier ranking. McDowell County ranked 55th (54 counties are more distressed) from the least distressed which was an improvement over last year. McDowell County moved up four positions over the past year, according to Abernathy.

McDowell’s ranking was higher than Burke, Mitchell and Rutherford but lower than Buncombe.

McDowell County had an average unemployment rate of 3.53% which was ranked among the lowest 10 counties.

“The unemployment rate was affected by the partial closing of Ethan Allen but new jobs made up for much of the loss,” said Abernathy. “We had a very low unemployment rate.”

The population for McDowell County grew by 1.79% and ranked in the top 58 counties. The median household income for McDowell County also grew to $41,443 and ranked 42nd in North Carolina.

The state released information on the average private sector earnings per job for all of North Carolina.

Abernathy explained that the state and McDowell County use a wage test that has to be met in order to participate in many state incentive programs.

The state also released the average private sector wages per job for 2019. The average wage for McDowell increased from $35,500 to $36,753. This average wage is a standard that each county must meet in order to participate in state incentive programs. McDowell County ranked 55th in wages paid and Abernathy expressed optimism about the improvement, according to the news release.

“Hopefully, these trends will continue in 2020 and we will see even more improvement in the state and local economy,” said Walker.

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