In the first half the 20th century, the rust belt was an economic powerhouse – producing as much as many nations around the world. But starting in the 1950s, manufacturing giants began to relocate to countries like China, Mexico, and Taiwan. And the recessions in the 70s and 80s only accelerated this behavior.
Mid sized cities such as Peoria, IL, Gary, IN, and Detroit, MI saw millions lose their jobs and billions in revenue lost. With many former blue collar workers now unemployed or unemployed, crime began to skyrocket. Reagan’s War on Drugs only added fuel to the fire as the nation shifted towards mass incarceration.
Nearly 40 years later, most, if not all these cities have been all but decimated. Multiple generations have lived most of their lives in cyclical poverty, and population loss in double digit percentages. Kids grow up with multiple family members in prison, limited financial and educational resources, and no hope in sight, so many unfortunately follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.
More than half of the cities in the Rust Belt have a massive number of abandoned residential, commercial, and industrial properties. The average income is near or around the national poverty line. Investors are wary of infusing capital in these cities as crime rates are still high and thus they remain stuck in time.
Growing up in the Midwest, many of the founders have experienced this hardship directly. We’ve seen our beloved cities slowly become depopulated, job opportunities diminishing, and our streets and parks fall into disrepair. We’ve seen our friends and family slip into a life of drug addiction, lengthy prison sentences for minor offenses, and never ending debt. We’ve watched as our leaders break promise after promise to restore our great cities to their glory days. Crime continues to grow making our neighborhoods too dangerous to live in. We’ve felt helplessness as predatory companies such as Lincoln Towing and Rendered Services Inc continue to break the law, steal our cars, and force us to pay fines when we barely have enough to pay for food. Our schools have been defunded and overcrowded, our environment poisoned, and any possible way out filled with so many bureaucratic roadblocks that giving up seems to be the only logical option to preserve our mental health. As we watched civil unrest and economic uncertainty grow, the teams at Fuse Capital & R&R Chicago decided to launched the RAFA Group – a socially conscious real estate development & lifestyle brand.
RAFA is a powerful word in multiple languages and in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, & Islam). In Arabic, it means “Happiness & Prosperity” or in another variation of the word – “kindness, compassion and sympathy”. RAFA is also the Hebrew word “to heal” found in the Bible and Torah. We didn’t choose the name for marketing purposes, we chose it to always remind ourselves why we started this business – to heal our cities and country and give our neighbors, friends, and family an opportunity to live the American dream. We want our children someday to grow up in a world free of greed and corruption. A world where they have a chance to make something of themselves without anyone standing in their way.
Our purpose is simple:
To foster change through the creation of wealth, opportunity, and innovation in how we live and interact with the world around us.