2015 was an outstanding year for economic development in Tennessee. Actually, it was the best year in the state’s history. Our business development team set a new record by landing 161 company commitments which represented 25,837 new job commitments and $5.5 billion in capital investment. Unemployment in the state was declining, and educational attainment was at the highest level ever. We also made great strides in rural development by announcing a new $10 million rural economic development fund to support initiatives in rural Tennessee.
After coming off of such a great year, we were determined to carry that momentum into the new year and hit the ground running in 2016. We began the year with some terrific news regarding Tennessee’s unemployment rate. With private sector employment growing by 3.66 percent over the past 12 months, Tennessee ranks No. 1 in the Southeast and No. 2 in the nation. Tennessee’s unemployment rate declined to 4.9 percent in February, matching the nation’s unemployment rate for that same month. This is certainly news that we, as a state, should be proud of.
Speaking of jobs, in January, we set an ambitious goal of creating 28,000 new jobs. Based on our robust pipeline, I believe we are on track to have another record breaking year. To date, we have secured 4,747 job commitments from 50 companies representing an investment of $806 million. We’ve been fortunate to have newly located projects and expansions throughout the state, and I’d like to take a moment to highlight just a few.