John Stibal retired as city of West Allis development director at the end of 2020 but has continued his work with First-Ring Industrial Redevelopment Enterprise Inc. as the organization’s president and now also its chief executive officer. FIRE is a community development financial entity, funded annually through federal New Markets tax credits, that provides financing to businesses in low-income neighborhoods. Stibal recently spoke with BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Alex Zank about his more than three decades at West Allis and the next chapter in his career.
Role at FIRE Inc.
“Our application (for New Markets tax credits) is in. We’ll find out if we get it in July. We’re doing deals as we speak right now trying to finalize agreements on the monies that we already have. By the way, this is our seventh allocation in a row we’re working on, and there are only three other entities in the country that have gotten seven in a row.
“I’d like to see us do more in our service area, which is Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. … We’ve done a lot in Milwaukee County. … It will be marketing to Racine and Kenosha economic development groups, businesses, and real estate attorneys and brokers to bring FIRE’s attention to these people as they’re putting their deals together.”
Outlook for West Allis
“I think they’re going to be spending more energy on trying to assist small businesses. That’s where we think our biggest growth opportunity is going to be, is helping small businesses expand. We’ll probably see 80% of our job growth in the small business area, so it’s a very critical part.
“Also, multi-family development has been (important) in terms of the quality we’ve been able to attract for development. We can compete favorably with cities like Wauwatosa and have valuable propositions that people want. In West Allis, we can give them that same quality and 25% less cost. That’s why all of a sudden, our multi-family market is booming and the rents are increasing, and as rents increase all property values increase. That’s been a focus that I’m sure the city will continue to focus on.”
How governments can address development challenges
“Probably the biggest deterrent to development is the lack of available land. I think we’ll be looking at acquiring more property and demolishing it to try to get it repositioned for redevelopment. It’s a matter of acquiring the industrial dinosaurs, so to speak, and then getting the properties demolished and through environmental cleanup, so that the site can compete with a greenfield site. Developers are always worried about the risk in a project. So, if you take out risk proposition, we can compete with anybody on development.”