Renewable Power Perspectives Q&A with Robert “A.J.” Patton, CEO of 548 Capital, LLC.

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the 3rd installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installment includes industry leaders and subjects related to accelerating an equitable and just transition to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member companies are thriving in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets expert with more than a years of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his competence and performance history of producing constant returns with an individual passion for helping transform neighborhoods and their effect on the world. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect on Americas shift to a tidy economy.
READ MORE: Up-and-Comer Developer Makes Headway without the Banks ( Chicago Sun-Times, August 27, 2021).
What inspired you to begin your business?
I had 2 critical moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas expense, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we could not manage the gas costs. And so, regrettably, we had our gas and heat turned off. For around a year in my teens, we had to boil water and carry it approximately a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely bumpy rides, and experiences like that simply stick with you. I dont care what happens the rest of your career or what your lifestyle is moving on; those moments are with you forever. As I talk about that with various groups around the nation, it has actually ended up being clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A great deal of people have similar anecdotes, whichs not an advantage
They looked confused that I would even dare ask about the daily individuals. I think I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I began my company. I called it 548 Capital since that is the unit number in the public housing where I grew up.

I believe there is constantly a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant believe it. Putting individuals in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always important. We are also constantly willing to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host people as soon as a week at our building so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that historically havent had access.

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, totally affordable and entirely sustainable advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 domestic systems, a cafe, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
I think there is constantly a shock when individuals learn who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant believe it.
The other thing that I believe is crucial is we have a financial impact that resonates with people, and its a pretty powerful message. That amount of money effects the budget plan of everyday families
What difficulties do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a company, any service, was going to be hard. With that said, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and say that were constructing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. Some banks dont desire to invest; they dont desire to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im trying to eliminate here, and weve made really small, incremental progress. I believe the lesson is that coalition structure is essential. My voice just implies so much, but the more I can bring friends to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement

So what can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is always important. Normalizing exposure, standing next to us and saying “these neighborhoods are worthwhile of financial investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can possible partners work with you?
Now, we are Chicago-focused. We are always trying to find partners to invest, offer financial obligation or purchase some tax credits, thats the first ask. We are also always ready to host people if they want to see a few of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host people once a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that historically havent had access. We are likewise going to be broadening our board. Im constantly tough magnates to put their name and face on these efforts because I believe that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been great just to meet the other Accelerate member companies. I learned a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and learning about individuals with absolutely different point of views. I like the networking.
I think we are doing the best we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, and that ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge distinction.

Tell us about your business? (objective, partners, regions you run in, main consumers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations available for all: all communities, all families, everybody ought to have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, needs to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone. Thats what my objective is, and luckily we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, but we will be announcing some new places this fall