NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Over the last five years, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) has brought in 65 projects in Davidson County alone, with 19,000 jobs and $2.1 billion in capital investment.

In March of 2020, those business dealings were put on pause due to COVID-19, but now, 16 months later, state leaders say we may be in better shape than we were prior to the pandemic.

Once the calendar hit January 1, 2021, Bob Rolfe, Commissioner of TNECD, says it was off to the races.

“All of the sudden, the lights came on,” Rolfe says.

Companies have been coming out of the woodwork, hoping to call Tennessee home.

“We are poised for greater growth than certainly I’ve experienced un my 4 to 4.5-years experience at ECD.” Rolfe adds this calendar year alone, he and his colleagues have announced more than 70 projects, with four out of ten of those projects sprouting in rural communities.

“We’re talking $4.5 billion. We’re talking on a magnitude of 10,500 new jobs,” says Rolfe.

The latest announcement, coming out of Nashville, where Smart USA Co., a retirement technology platform out of the UK, will set up shop – creating close to 130 new jobs.

“We’ll probably see some other interesting U.S. companies from the West Coast that will continue to migrate out of California, and we’ll look forward to those interesting announcements,” Rolfe says, noting that his eyes are set across the pond.

“We have a couple of projects in the UK, and the largest projects are companies in the Asian realm,” Rolfe says, “I’m specifically talking about Japanese companies and South Korean companies.”

The problem is that most borders remain closed due to COVID-19, so international business is still slow.

“When you look at the opportunities that are international, as soon as those borders open, I promise you our team will be on the first plane to bring those companies to Tennessee.” Rolfe continues, “What we discovered is part of the conversation part of the narrative is to convince a company that we are open to business; we have the most pro-business friendly agenda; we have a workforce that will work for that company.”