By Bob Joyce, Senior Director, Business Retention & Expansion
It’s hard to believe there are less than 20 days left in 2021! We’ve had a great year in economic development in Lee County, apparent not only when you drive around town but also apparent on the balance sheets of most companies across the community. Our local businesses have had a super year.
More evidence of a strong local economy is the annual report we receive from our partners at the NC Department of Commerce. Every year about this time Commerce assembles data to designate economic development tier rankings for all 100 counties in NC. These rankings, which are mandated by state law, play a role in several programs that assist in attracting industry or helping businesses expand.
The methodology to determine these rankings is prescribed by the General Assembly. Various economic factors are complied and calculated by Commerce, then used to rank each county. The county is then assigned a tier ranking – either 1, 2 or 3. Tier 1 counties are generally the most economically distressed. Tier 3 counties are the wealthier counties. State law requires 40 counties in Tier 1, 40 counties in Tier 2 and 20 counties in Tier 3.
Lee County’s tier designation remained Tier 2. That’s good news because recruitment incentive investments from the state are higher for Tier 2 counties than Tier 3.
One of the measures compiled by Commerce is our County’s average annual wage. The latest Lee County number is $45,743, up 7.6% from $42,516. That new number ranks us 84th out of 100 counties for that measure.
Moore County’s new average wage is slightly higher at $46,471. Harnett and Chatham are lower at $37,947 and $41,638, respectively.
Obviously, our neighbors in the Triangle are ranked in the top. Durham has the highest average wage in the state at $82,247 due to the fact that most of the Research Triangle Park (and the associated high wage workers) are in Durham County. Wake County’s new average is third highest at $68,317. Orange County is fifth highest at $59,026.
At almost every Chamber gathering, there is a discussion of retail shopping choices. Everyone would like to see a wider selection of shops, especially general merchandise stores. These new figures are great data to share with retail developers. A sizable increase in disposable income, measured in different ways but certainly using average wages as a component, will be very helpful as our community attempts to attract new retail development.