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Chatham's AAA bond rating puts county in select group

Posted Sunday, October 26, 2014

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Pittsboro, NC - The week of October 14 brought great news for Chatham County from the two major bond rating agencies announcing upgraded bond ratings, including the highest rating of AAA from Standard and Poor's. The higher ratings mean lower interest rates for bonds on projects like the new Agriculture & Conference Center.

The good news also means that Chatham is in the select company of a few much larger counties. Only eight other much larger counties in the state and 89 counties in the entire nation had earned a AAA rating from Standard and Poor's, as of 2013 Census reports.

Commissioner Chairman Walter Petty said, "The Board of Commissioners adopted the AAA rating as a goal less than two years ago. It is hard to convey just how much we appreciate the hard work and expertise of all county staff and the Chatham Economic Development Corporation to make this possible."

County Manager Charlie Horne agreed that it was a countywide effort involving all departments, but he gives special thanks to the county's budget and finance staff led by Assistant County Manager Renee Paschal, Finance Director Vicki McConnell, Financial Operations Manager Hope Tally and Budget Analyst Lisa West.

Horne said, "I believe we have the best fiscal team in the state. Their great budget and finance planning and stewardship over many years got us to this point."

All of the other AAA-rated counties in the state are much larger than Chatham County. Orange County is the next smallest with an estimated 2013 population of 139,694, more than twice as big as Chatham with an estimated 66,817 people. Most AAA counties have populations of 250,000 to more than a million.

Moody's upgraded Chatham County to its rating of Aa1, just one step away from its highest rating of Aaa. As of 2013, the only other county in the same population group with the Aa1 rating was Carteret County at the coast.

Standard and Poor's cited several positive factors in its announcement of the rating upgrade, including a "very strong local economy, very strong budgetary performance, very strong management conditions with strong financial policies, and adequate debt and contingencies."

Assistant County Manager Renee Paschal said that county staff joined with the EDC in making presentations to both bond agencies last month, with the goal of obtaining the rating upgrades. The presentation highlighted improving financial conditions and economic outlook.

EDC President Dianne Reid pointed out recent economic development successes, including a major increase in new jobs, with 1,688 new jobs created in Chatham from FY 2012 to FY 2014. This is an increase of 429 percent over the previous three years.

"Business capital investment also has dramatically improved during this period," Reid said. "A total of $192.04 million has been invested by new and existing Chatham businesses between FY 2012 and FY 2014, an increase of 862 percent over the previous three-year period.

Commissioner Brian Bock noted that Chatham's future looks even brighter with the recent State of North Carolina certification of the Chatham-Randolph Megasite near Siler City and early development of a second large industrial site near Moncure. Chatham Park, a large mixed use development in the Pittsboro area, also will add jobs and significantly expand the county's property tax base.

Commissioner Pam Stewart said, "Taxpayers are the big winners here. We have the construction of the Agriculture & Conference Center coming up, which will be a huge asset for the county. The lower interest rates mean big savings for the county."

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Chatham's AAA bond rating puts county in select group

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