Holcomb talks final months, National Guard border shooting from Mexico

By Whitney Downard | Indiana Capital Chronicle

For The Republic

INDIANAPOLIS — In a virtual press call from Mexico City Thursday, Gov. Eric Holcomb talked economic development in the final months of his administration and reacted to reports of an Indiana National Guard member involved in a border shooting on Sunday.

Holcomb is in Mexico on an economic development trip after visiting Brazil earlier in the week in his first trip to the countries as governor. Just over two dozen Brazilian and Mexican companies have a presence in Indiana but Holcomb hinted there could be more to come.

“… we’ve made some progress on some projects that we’ve been working on while we were at home but we’ve made more progress here. Details yet to be shared but I’m growing in confidence that they will be realized. And we have some new prospects and some new possibilities,” Holcomb shared, summarizing the trip. “Obviously this trip was centered on ag(riculture) and agbioscience … over 1,000 international companies are growing roots in the state of Indiana. We want to continue to watch that number grow.”

As to the guard shooting, he said “This incident shows just how dangerous the mission can be. It shows, or highlights, that there are criminals attempting to illegally enter our country. The investigation is still ongoing but they’re willing to murder in doing so,” Holcomb continued. “I have full faith in our military justice system and process to investigate and get all the details in the case nailed down.”

The trip and Holcomb’s future

Even with roughly 270 days left in his term, he said that discussions with stakeholders haven’t changed. But he also acknowledged there was work to be done by his eventual successor.

“Folks that I’m sitting across the table with — knowing that I have that 6,480 hours left — they want to make sure that the trajectory is moving in the right direction and it’s going to continue. So they are heartened, at least what they’ve shared with me, they are heartened that I’m still on the road, pitching Indiana ag,” Holcomb said.

“This has just reminded me, ‘Eric, get out on the road more.’ Because Indiana has such a great story to tell and share,” Holcomb concluded.

Most of the six Republicans vying to succeed him have been critical of the state’s economic development choices and it’s unclear whether they would support the same tactics utilized by Holcomb.

Still, Holcomb touted the “strong bonds” formed on the trip, specifically ones dealing with food and nutrition research and collaboration.

“… to go deep into the subject matter about resiliency, about different terrains … it has been a real joy to know that this ag sector and agbiosciences means $58 billion to our Hoosier bottom line each year but that number could be even bigger because of the work those companies are doing,” Holcomb said.

“We need Mexico and Brazil ag to feed and fuel the world and I’m proud … (Hoosier) companies that have operations abroad become stronger because of the work we’re doing together,” he said.

Holcomb was joined by a sizable delegation, including business leaders from Indiana companies and university experts as well as representatives from corn and soybean interest groups.

Reported shooting on the border

While on the Zoom with reporters, he also touched on the recent border shooting.

On Sunday, an Indiana National Guard member reportedly shot at someone stabbing another migrant in El Paso. After the soldier shot at the individual, they fled back into Mexico and it’s unclear what they were shot with or whether they were struck.

Details remain murky as an investigation unfolds but Holcomb emphasized his support for both the soldier and the mission to support efforts by Texas’ state government to close off their portion of the U.S.-Mexico border.

“First and foremost, I just want to say again … just how proud I am of our Hoosier soldiers and airmen in our Indiana National Guard and Air National Guard,” Holcomb said.

At the departure ceremony, Holcomb — who authorized the mission — characterized the role of the National Guard as assisting, not arresting or apprehending.

“I am beyond thankful to this individual who potentially saved two lives by defending them and themselves. I’m reassured that the training that they got before they deployed and assumed this active duty on the southern border was beneficial,” he concluded.

— The Indiana Capital Chronicle covers state government and the state legislature. For more, visit indianacapitalchronicle.com.