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Dickenson County remained designated as distressed in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s most recent rankings of the economic status of the 420 counties that are part of ARC.

The year 2020 will be the fourth straight year ARC has designated Dickenson County as distressed. It had been considered at-risk from 2012 through 2016. Dickenson County was designated as distressed from 2008 through 2011.

Dickenson County is among 80 counties that will be considered distressed in 2020, ranking among the worst 10 percent of counties in the nation based on a formula drawing from income, unemployment rate and poverty rates.

Joining Dickenson County with an ARC distressed designation for 2020 were Wise, Buchanan and Lee counties while Russell and Tazewell counties were designated as at-risk.

ARC’s County Economic Status Designations for Fiscal Year 2020 was released June 25. It also found that FY 2020 will have the lowest number of designated distressed counties in Appalachia since 2008.

To determine the economic status of each of the region’s 420 counties across 13 states, the release explains, ARC “applies a composite index formula drawing on the latest data available on per capita market income combined with the previous three-year average unemployment rate, and the previous five-year poverty rates.”

With this data, each county is classified into one of the five economic designations — Distressed, At-Risk, Transitional, Competitive and Attainment.

In addition to the 80 distressed counties among the total ARC counties for 2020, the release also identifies that:

• 110 will be considered At-Risk, ranking between the worst 10 percent to 25 percent of counties in the nation;

• 217 will be considered Transitional, ranking between the worst 25 percent and best 25 percent of counties in the nation;

• 10 counties will be considered Competitive, ranking between best 25 percent and best 10 percent; and

• three counties will be considered Attainment, ranking among the best 10 percent of counties in the nation.

According to the release, the 2020 designation also found:

• There will be 18 Appalachian counties to experience negative shifts in their economic status since FY 2019. This primary includes coal-impacted counties in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

• A total 29 Appalachian counties across eight states experienced positive shifts in the economic status since FY 2019. This primarily includes counties in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, which each have five or more counties experiencing positive economic status shifts.

“Parts of the Appalachian Region face significant economic challenges compared to the rest of the country, and by releasing this data publicly in an accessible format, ARC is seeking to ensure awareness of these challenges, and to inform policymakers at all levels,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Tim Thomas. “ARC and our state partners use this data to direct critical investments toward distressed areas, and I am pleased to see net improvements in many parts of the region compared to previous years.”

Data tables, source methodology, and a link to an interactive mapping tool featuring the economic status of each Appalachian county is available at

ARC has been issuing index-based County Economic Status Designations on annual basis since 2007, primarily to help the Region’s 13 states develop economic investment strategies for the forthcoming year. In FY 2018, 279 projects totaling 64 percent of ARC investment dollars had a direct impact on distressed counties. ARC is currently in FY 2019, which ends Sept. 30, 2019. ARC’s County Economic Status Designations for FY 2020 will be effective Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020, for investment purposes.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.