New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender Counties are among the most prosperous counties in North Carolina.
The State Commerce Secretary has just released rankings for 2013, which show that rural counties remain among the poorest.
Classified as Tier 1 counties, Bladen, Columbus, and Robeson are some of the most economically distressed statewide.
Tier designations, which determine how much tax relief certain companies can get for locating there, are based on the local unemployment rate, median household income, population growth, and property values.
In a Tier 1 county, such as Columbus, an eligible business can qualify for higher tax credits or more in grant dollars in exchange for commitments to create a certain number of jobs and a pre-determined amount of business property investment.
There is a long list of industries acceptable for the tax credit program. They include manufacturing, aircraft maintenance and repair, research and development, and customer service call centers.
Financially robust Tier 3 counties, such as New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender, make up the top 20 percent in the state.