Harnett County Manager Joseph Jeffries announced that the bond rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded Harnett County’s general obligation bond rating from Aa3 to Aa2. The upgraded bond rating will allow the County to attract a more competitive interest rate when issuing general obligation bonds in the future.
The upgrade comes following a review of the County’s current financial outlook as well as a conference call with the County’s management team and representatives of Davenport & Company LLC, the County’s financial advisor.
In making the upgrade, Moody’s stated the Aa2 GO rating “reflects the favorable location between Raleigh and Fayetteville, the sizable and growing tax base with below average wealth levels, healthy reserves and liquidity, and manageable fixed costs.” Moody’s specifically noted the 2015 grand opening of the 1.45 million-square-foot Rooms To Go regional distribution and retail center along Interstate 95 in Dunn. The project resulted in a $40 million investment and 250 full-time jobs along with additional trucking contracts.
Among Harnett County’s strengths are a “sizable tax base with favorable location poised for further growth, healthy reserves and cash levels, and low pension cost.”
“This is a demonstration of the fiscal responsibility the County has shown in recent years and how we’ve been able to turn things around following the economic downturn,” said Harnett County Board of Commissioners Chairman Gordon Springle. “We’ve put some policies and procedures in place over the last few years that should really help the County moving forward.”
“In making this decision, Moody’s looked at the County’s existing fiscal policies and they particularly liked that our Board of Commissioners is committed to adhering to those policies and that they’re engaged,” said Harnett County Finance Officer Kimberly Honeycutt.
Jeffries said the rating upgrade is just one of many positive things currently taking place in Harnett County.
“Since 2010, Harnett County is the fifth fastest growing county in North Carolina and one of the 100 fastest growing counties in the United States,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of momentum in Harnett County and this announcement is part of that. We’re also developing more parks and working to expand our trails and access along the Cape Fear River. We’re focused on leveraging assets like Campbell University and Central Carolina Community College to attract new business and industry to the County, and we’ve increased teacher supplements to be more competitive in the region.”
Moody’s noted that the County could receive another upgrade in the future with a decreased debt burden, increase in reserve and liquidity levels, and significant economic expansion and diversification.