ARC Counties

Athens, Meigs and Monroe counties (in red) are among those in Ohio and beyond to be labeled as “Distressed” by the Appalachian Regional Commission — meaning they are among the lowest 10 percent of counties nationwide in terms of economic strength.

Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, July 3 newspaper on Page A1.

For the fourth year in a row, both Jackson and Vinton counties have been designated as “At-Risk” by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

That’s the second-lowest of five economic status tiers rated by ARC. Both counties are struggling — far beyond the national averages, well beyond the state averages and even beyond the Appalachian region as a whole.

Still, there are other counties in the region that are reportedly struggling even further: Athens and Meigs are among four counties in Ohio to be designated by ARC as “Distressed,” the lowest economic tier.

How the ARC

system works

The Appalachian Regional Commission is a partnership between the federal government as well as the state and local governments that make up Appalachia. It’s an economic development agency meant to provide funding toward projects such as infrastructure improvements.

ARC covers hundreds of counties in 13 different states, from New York all the way southwest to Mississippi. This includes the swath of Southeast Ohio.

To assess a county’s “economic status,” ARC tracks three major indicators for every county across the whole United States. These indicators are: a three-year average unemployment rate; per capita market income; and poverty rate.

Using these three indicators, ARC assigns a certain overall value to each county. ARC then ranks every county by its calculated value.

Counties are then designated among five categories based on where they fall.

The top 10 percent of counties are given “Attainment” status — these are among the economically strongest counties in America.

The second-highest status is “Competitive” — these are between the top 10 and 25 percent.

In the middle are “Transitional” counties — those between the highest 25 percent and the lowest 25 percent. In other words, this category reflects the middle 50 percent of all counties. They are seen as “transitioning” from either a weak economy to a better one, or vice versa.

The second-lowest status is “At-Risk” — between the lowest 10 and 25 percent of counties. This is the status that Jackson and Vinton county are in for the Fiscal Year 2020, which begins later this year.

The bottom status is “Distressed” — the lowest 10 percent of counties in all of the United States.

Why do these

designations matter?

ARC uses these designations to create a balanced system in regards to the financial assistance it provides. In essence, the worse off a county is economically, the more funding ARC will provide on a given project.

For “Distressed” counties, ARC will match up to 80 percent of local funding toward a project.

“At-Risk” counties get up to 60 percent; “Transitional” counties get up to 50 percent; “Competitive” get up to 30 percent; and “Attainment” counties are not eligible for any ARC matching funds.

How do Jackson and

Vinton counties compare to other places?

There are 32 counties in Ohio considered to be “Appalachian” by the ARC. As noted, just four of these 32 are considered “Distressed” — Athens, Meigs, Monroe and Adams.

Fourteen others, including Jackson and Vinton counties, are “At-Risk.”

The remainder are “Transitional” or “Competitive.” Among the “Transitional” counties in our area are Ross and Hocking.

Here are Jackson County’s figures compared to the statewide averages in parenthesis:

  • Three-year average unemployment rate, 2015-17: 7.5 percent (5.0 percent)
  • Per capita market income: $23,587 ($37,565)
  • Poverty Rate: 20.6 percent (14.9 percent)

And here are Vinton County’s figures compared to the same statewide averages:

  • Three-year average unemployment rate, 2015-17: 6.8 percent (5.0 percent)
  • Per capita market income: $21,056 ($37,565)
  • Poverty Rate: 21.1 percent (14.9 percent)

Jackson and Vinton counties have nearly identical poverty rates; Jackson has a slightly higher market income, but Vinton has a slightly better unemployment rate.

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