By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Photo courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the third installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation includes market leaders and topics related to accelerating an equitable and simply transition to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member business are flourishing in the sustainable energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets professional with more than a years of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and genuine estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his know-how and performance history of creating constant returns with a personal enthusiasm for assisting transform neighborhoods and their influence on the world. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his influence on Americas shift to a clean economy.
LEARNT MORE: Up-and-Comer Developer Makes Headway without the Banks ( Chicago Sun-Times, August 27, 2021).
What inspired you to begin your company?
I had two turning points that made me jump. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas costs, and she was just making ten bucks an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas costs. Therefore, regrettably, we had our gas and heat shut down. For roughly a year in my teens, we needed to boil water and carry it up to a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely difficult times, and experiences like that simply stick to you. I do not care what takes place the rest of your profession or what your lifestyle is moving forward; those moments are with you forever. As I speak about that with various groups around the nation, it has become clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A great deal of individuals have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good idea
The second essential moment was most likely 15 years back, as I was working for a firm that was investing in a host of things around the globe. People were can be found in to request for a financial investment around renewable resource, and I positioned a question to them: “What you are making with these solar companies is incredible, and the cost of solar is boiling down, however how does that aid everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their gain access to? They are paying an out of proportion amount of their earnings on energy.” They looked confused that I would even attempt inquire about the daily people. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households frequently reside in multi-family buildings, and it is difficult to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you need to call specific families and the expense of getting those people educated and then registering for renewable resource is not a beneficial company design.” I asked, “What if I owned the real estate advancement and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market permanently. So I stopped my job. I believe I kipped down my resignation within six months of that conversation, and I began my business. Because that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up, I called it 548 Capital. So everything is I do is targeted to families in those situations and concentrated on enhancing their quality of life
I think there is constantly a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant think it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everybody can share notes is constantly valuable. We are also constantly prepared to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host individuals when a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to.
What can organizations like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in spaces together so everybody can share notes is constantly important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a chance to speak directly with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is spectacular. Then, if there are nationwide corporations that can support our work that can likewise be a big deal. Were currently dealing with a partnership with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our jobs. Normalizing exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities are worthwhile of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can prospective partners work with you?
We are also constantly ready to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host people once a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that historically have not had access. Im always tough top executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I believe that has real value
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been excellent just to fulfill the other Accelerate member companies. I learned a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and discovering about individuals with totally different perspectives. I love the networking.
I think we are doing the very 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.
Inform us about your business? (mission, partners, areas you operate in, main clients, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all neighborhoods, all households, everybody must have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to work as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone. Thats what my mission is, and luckily we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be announcing some new locations this fall
Share with us a recent success story.
We recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, entirely budget-friendly and totally sustainable advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 residential units, a coffee shop, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
I believe there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant believe it.
The other thing that I think is important is we have a financial impact that resonates with people, and its a pretty powerful message. Were intending to cut energy costs for households in half. Thats a big offer, you know. That quantity of money effects the spending plan of everyday households
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a business, any organization, was going to be challenging. With that stated, 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 communities are still being red-lined. Some banks dont want to invest; they do not wish to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to combat here, and weve made extremely small, incremental development. I believe the lesson is that coalition building is necessary. My voice only means so much, however the more I can bring buddies to the table and amplify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement