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Business Leader Extraordinaire Dies

Bob Hoffman — known as the “the czar of economic development” — relaxes in a garden chair at his home in this 2008 file photo. The business icon passed away Monday evening. (JOURNAL FILE)
Bob Hoffman — known as the “the czar of economic development” — relaxes in a garden chair at his home in this 2008 file photo. The business icon passed away Monday evening. (JOURNAL FILE)
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Bob Hoffman, New Mexico’s first economic development chief and founding executive director of Albuquerque Economic Forum, died Monday evening at his home after a long illness. He was 82.

A native of Binghamton, N.Y., Hoffman came to New Mexico with the Air Force in 1950 and became what Bob Murphy, his successor at Economic Forum, called “the czar of economic development.”

“His philosophy was that if you could create more and better jobs, it’s better for the entire community,” Murphy said Tuesday. “It was a joy working with him over the years.”

“He did a wonderful job by motivating local leadership to unify their efforts toward coordinated action that focused on the big picture in a way that improved economic vitality and quality of life,” said Chuck Lanier, an Albuquerque businessman who was a founder of Economic Forum. “He felt that we shouldn’t drown in our problems but take positive action to solve them and to do so in a coordinated fashion, not for personal ego but for the overall good of the economy.”

“He was that way when he was going to school,” said his son, Kevin, a retired Albuquerque police officer. “He was always trying to change things and make things better. When he got here to New Mexico he saw a huge opportunity to do that.”

Trained as a radio announcer, Hoffman began working for an Alamogordo radio station while he was still in the Air Force. He joined a Portales radio station in 1955. While in Portales he established an economic development commission and became president of the local chamber of commerce. He was managing another station in Alamogordo in the ’60s when Gov. Jack Campbell tapped him to become the state’s first director of economic development and tourism.

Hoffman told the Journal in 2008 his greatest achievement was bringing industry to Roswell when Walker Air Force Base closed in 1967. He recruited a fireworks company to the old base, got Eastern New Mexico University to establish a Roswell branch, and convinced Boeing to test its 747 aircraft at the abandoned base. Pan Am and Lufthansa airlines trained pilots there too.

Hoffman ran Economic Forum from its founding in 1982 until his retirement in 2007. Along the way he served on dozens of boards and accepted countless gubernatorial and mayoral appointments.

In addition to Kevin Hoffman, he is survived by a son, Kiel, a daughter, Holly Torres, and by several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jerry, his wife of 61 years, died in March.

Funeral arrangements are pending at French Mortuary.

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