Gov. Holcomb Does Q&A With LCB’s Findlay At Chamber Dinner

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (L) responds to a question from Lake City Bank President and CEO David Findlay during the keynote speech of the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner Thursday evening at Nextremity Solutions. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Instead of a 30-minute speech, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb sat down with Lake City Bank President and Chief Executive Officer David Findlay for a question-and-answer session at the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner Thursday night.

The Q&A gave Findlay a chance to ask Holcomb – Indiana’s 51st governor – about a number of topics, from the U.S. 30 corridor improvements to the economy and workforce development.

The sold-out dinner was held at Nextremity Solutions in the Warsaw Technology Park.

The first question Findlay asked, which he said came from Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, was what was Holcomb’s plan and perspective on U.S. 30.

Holcomb said, “This is something that’s not new to us. It’s a top priority. We’re going to get it done. It’s a huge potential for explosive growth, not just Fort Wayne to Warsaw, but all the way across. So as we look at those core buildouts, we’ll make sure it stays a top priority.”

He said that’s why the state has entered into contracts and is doing studies on it.

“So when you look around the state, a lot of things, you can take into consideration traffic counts and safety and environmental. You’ve got to cross every T and dot every i. We’re on our road to getting that done as well,” Holcomb said.

Findlay pointed out that the dinner was in another new orthopedic building in the Orthopaedic Capitol of the World. “How do you look at the orthopedic industry today, relative to the future of the state and the world of the stakes we play, in helping us preserve, extend and grow this orthopedic business?”

Holcomb, pointing to a giant sign inside Nextremity with the word ‘Pride’ on it, said, “So it’s an enormous source of pride for the state of Indiana. No matter where I am in the state or the country or around the world, people know of Indiana because of your prowess and heritage. But, again, you can never rest and you have such a success story to tell and people want to join a winning team. And the more that we – the state of Indiana – and you can share that, that’s a good kind of infection. That’s infectious and we’ll continue to lead with it.”

He said there are a number of different sectors in Indiana that really do touch into different parts of the world market.

Findlay asked Holcomb, when he thinks about workforce development and workforce availability and population growth, “Where do you see the (Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s) initiatives and  our broader initiatives statewide going to look for that workforce for the future?”

Holcomb mentioned an article titled “The Great Resignation” that “really” got under his skin.

“It’s not really a great resignation. There is an awful lot of journeying going on. When people said where are the people, they’re working,” he said.

Indiana has a 2.7% unemployment rate, the lowest in 46 years, he said. As well as, just on the state of Indiana’s website, there are job postings for 152,000 open jobs.

“And so you start to say, where are we going to find more people to get them into the labor force, to raise that participation rate?” Holcomb said, mentioning educational programs as a source of workers. “We have to recruit though.”

From July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, Indiana only had 692 more births than deaths, which Holcomb characterized as anemic. He said Indiana is the sixth-fastest growing state, with a positive net of 20,000 people.

“They are coming from other places, in large part, because opportunity is here. So we’re going to have to make sure we’re constantly trying to recruit more people, more population,” Holcomb said.

He said people are coming from more populated areas to Indiana.

“They said in California they literally ran out of U-Haul trucks. U-Haul said Indiana was the sixth fastest inbound migratory pattern in the country. Sixth best,” Holcomb said.

While the Midwest – 12 states – lost 93,000 people, Indiana gained 20,000, Holcomb said. The Midwest goes from South Dakota to Ohio, he said.

Michigan lost north of 10,000; Ohio lost population; and Illinois lost 113,000, but Indiana gained 20,000, Holcomb said.

“It’s draining. It’s draining to Indiana in a good way. We just need that times eight to keep up with the opportunity that’s here,” he said.

Findlay asked what other governors are saying about Indiana to Holcomb. “Competition,” he replied, saying that Indiana holds its weight and other state governors know that.

As for other priorities the governor has, he said economic development, community development and workforce development.

“But we are in a time, a unique time, of multiple transitions and modernization efforts. And for a state like Indiana, right where we sit, the epicenter as you mentioned earlier, a state like Indiana that is No. 1 per capita in the country in terms of manufacturing, we better be No. 1 in advanced manufacturing 10 years from now,” Holcomb said.

If the state is going to get very big deals done, they’re different type of deals that the state hasn’t competed for previously and “when you start making transmissions one day, the next day you’re making something else, you better be ready for it,” he said, and the IEDC better have the right tool kit.

Asked what he’s most worried about, Holcomb said it depends on the night.

“So much in this job, it offers two different things. One, it offers an enormous opportunity to do good on a scale like few others. It’s never taken for granted. Two, a lot of information comes through every single day. And we try to, as we discussed, to live in the moment and understand the decisions that you’re making right now and you’re learning from right now, that’s going to be history soon but it’s not going to affect the future,” Holcomb said.

He said he learns about everything from accidents and police shootings to cyberattacks. He also talked about the Afghan refugees that were housed at Camp Atterbury.

“It depends on the day the issues I’m dealing with. But you get a cyberattack threat, and with everything that’s going on right now with Russia and Ukraine and that’s heating up, stuff happens and you have to respond to it,” Holcomb said. “But if there’s one constantly,” he said it’s the state’s workforce and how does the state build up its workforce.