Jim Hill has become the new executive director of the International [auth] UFO Museum and Research Center, the city’s largest tourist destination and a focal point for research and writings on the topic. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)
A well-known Roswell businessman has landed at the International UFO Museum and Research Center, Roswell’s biggest tourist destination and one of the world’s largest sites for research and writing on extraterrestrial sightings and investigations.
Roswell native Jim Hill, who joined the organization three weeks ago, said that he plans to oversee continued growth at the museum, as he works with other organizations to increase tourism in the area.
“We want to work toward a larger number of guests, having more return to visit and having those that come stay longer,” Hill said.
Hill said his top priorities include evaluating advertising methods to increase visitors for the museum and the city and overseeing several redesign and improvement projects for the organization’s properties, which include the entire west side of the 100 block of North Main Street.
Hill indicated that the organization, first created in 1991, is in the initial plans of redesigning the exhibit space for the museum and expanding both the collections and size of the library. The UFO Museum and Research Center also plans to improve the south parking lot and is considering a downtown park on a lot at Main and Second streets, left vacant after an empty and damaged building was torn down.
According to Hill, the UFO Museum is one of the city’s biggest tourist draws and is the second most-visited museum in the state following the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. In the first three months of 2016, the museum has recorded 44,334 visitors, a 17 percent increase compared to the same time last year. Hill said that 35 to 36 percent of visitors report that they come to Roswell specifically to visit the museum. He also said that 38 percent indicate that they stay in hotels when they visit. Annually, the museum and research center sees more than 180,000 visitors.
“I am really excited about (the growth),” he said. “I see a lot of potential there.”
The organization draws more than tourists, though. Its library is a resource for researchers, students and entertainment and news media worldwide. Hill said that it is a depository for the Smithsonian Institution on the materials related to the Roswell Incident, UFOs and extraterrestrial matters. And board Chairman Jack Swickard said that the library is second in size only to the Vatican’s collection on the topics.
Swickard added that the board chose Hill from among other candidates because of his experience as a manager of large organizations.
Hill replaces Mark Briscoe, who resigned about four months ago to accept a position with a construction company. Briscoe had served in the position for about two years.
A Roswell native who graduated from New Mexico Military Institute and Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, Hill most recently served as an office manager with Ritter & Co., a local accounting firm.
Prior to that, Hill had a 30-year career as a banking manager and executive with First Interstate Bank of Lea County and its successor following a buyout, Wells Fargo. He worked in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Hobbs and Scottsdale, Arizona, in various positions, including wealth management advising and branch operations management. He served with First Interstate as chief administrative officer for eight years.
Hill said that his experience with finance, retail and marketing pertain to his new responsibilities, and he foresees working with the Roswell Tourism Council, the Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau and MainStreet Roswell as well as other groups to help boost interest and travel to the area.
Swickard added that he expects Hill, given his knowledge and experience, also will help create a better environment for the organization’s 18 employees.
The UFO Museum and Research Center is one of the sponsors of the upcoming UFO Festival, coordinated by MainStreet Roswell, the city and other entities. The event starts June 30 and runs through July 3. During last year’s festival, 55,000 people visited the museum and research center, about 30 percent of that year’s total visitor count of 184,000.
The museum and research center recently was the victim of vandalism when someone stole and destroyed the spaceship in front of its building in March. A teenager was arrested in conjunction with the incident.
Swickard said an outpouring of support came from city residents, as well as people all over the world, who read or heard about the matter. Swickard said the organization is in the process of having a new, larger spaceship designed, built and installed.
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