County Tier Designations

Every year, North Carolina's 100 counties receive a tier designation from the NC Department of Commerce that is based on various indicators of economic well-being. The tier system is incorporated into many of the NC Department of Commerce's incentive programs in order to encourage economic activity in economically distressed areas of the state. The tier rankings range from Tier 1 (most distressed) to Tier 3 (least distressed).

2019 County Tier Designations

The rankings for counties in the NC Southeast region are as follows:

  • Tier 1: Anson, Bladen, Columbus, Duplin, Cumberland, Lenoir, Hoke, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne
  • Tier 2: Craven, Onslow
  • Tier 3: Brunswick, Moore, New Hanover, Pender

State Incentive Programs

There are a number of incentive programs administered by the NC Department of Commerce that can help lessen the tax burden and overall cost of doing business for companies locating and expanding in North Carolina.

Discretionary Grants:

Building Demolition:

Building Reuse:

Public Infrastructure:


Additional Business-Cost Savings Opportunities

Historically Underutilized Business Zones (HUBZones)

North Carolina's Southeast has 4 counties designated as HUBZones: Bladen, Columbus, Robeson, and Scotland.The program’s benefits for HUBZone-certified companies include:

  • Competitive and sole source contracting

  • 10% price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions, as well as subcontracting opportunities.

The federal government has a goal of awarding 3% of all dollars for federal prime contracts to HUBZone-certified small business concerns.

New Market Tax Credits:

  • The New Market Tax Credit program was enacted to promote community investment from individuals and companies. The credit is provided to the company or individual that makes a qualified investment with a Community Development Entity (CDE). The invested money must be used by the CDE to provide low interest loans to new business ventures within a qualified census tract.

Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRB):

  • North Carolina bond programs allow tax-exempt bonds at 1.5-2.5 percentage points below corporate bond rates.

Foreign Trade Zones (FTZ):

  • Foreign Trade Zone 214 & 93 cover a portion of NC Southeast's member counties. An FTZ is a secured, neutral area outside of US customs territory. Items imported into an FTZ are exempt from duties and excise taxes. Merchandise may be manipulated, used in manufacturing, inspected, combined, displayed for sale, or re-exported without payment of duty. Customs duties and excise taxes are only applied on the final product if/when the product is imported into the US.

Local Incentives

Many of NCSE's member counties have the ability to abate local property taxes and/or provide low to no cost land grants to help further lower the cost burden for new businesses.