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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Photo thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the third installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation includes market leaders and subjects associated with speeding up an equitable and just transition to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are thriving in the sustainable energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, 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. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his knowledge and track record of producing constant returns with a personal passion for helping change communities and their impact 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 tidy 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 2 turning points that made me leap. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas expense, and she was only making 10 dollars an hour, so we couldnt manage the gas bill. 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 as much as a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were distinctively difficult times, and experiences like that just stick to you. I do not care what happens the rest of your career or what your quality of life is progressing; those minutes are with you forever. As I talk about that with different groups around the nation, it has actually ended up being clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A great deal of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The second turning point was probably 15 years earlier, as I was working for a company that was investing in a host of things all over the world. Individuals were can be found in to request an investment around sustainable energy, and I presented a question to them: “What you are doing with these solar firms is amazing, and the cost of solar is coming down, but how does that help everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their gain access to? They are paying a disproportionate quantity of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even dare inquire about the daily individuals. They stated, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families often reside in multi-family structures, and it is hard to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to get in touch with private households and the expense of getting those individuals educated and after that signing up for sustainable energy is not a beneficial business design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the real estate development and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market permanently. I quit my job. I believe I kipped down my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I began my company. I called it 548 Capital because that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up. Everything is I do is targeted to households in those circumstances and focused on enhancing their quality of life

I think there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, individuals just cant think it. Putting individuals in rooms together so everyone can share notes is always important. We are likewise constantly willing to host individuals 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 technology that were using in communities that traditionally have not had access.

Share with us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, entirely cost effective and totally sustainable advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 domestic systems, a cafe, a business center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
When people discover who is behind our company, I believe there is always a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant think it. To me, thats pretty satisfying. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is important is we have an economic impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite powerful message. That amount of money effects the spending plan of daily families
What difficulties do you deal with? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a business, any company, was going to be difficult. With that stated, access to capital is ungodly difficult. When I go to banks and say that were building sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they look at me like Ive spoken the wrong language. These communities are still being red-lined. Some banks dont wish to invest; they do not 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 very small, incremental progress. I think the lesson is that union building is essential. My voice only indicates a lot, but the more I can bring pals to the table and magnify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need

Tell us about your company? (mission, partners, regions you run in, primary consumers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all neighborhoods, all households, everyone needs to have access. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone.

So what can organizations like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in rooms together so everyone can share notes is always valuable. Stabilizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these neighborhoods are worthwhile of financial investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can prospective partners work with you?
We are also always willing 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 communities that traditionally havent had access. Im constantly difficult top executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I believe that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been excellent just to satisfy the other Accelerate member companies. I discovered a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with totally different point of views. I enjoy the networking.
I believe we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Just understanding that it exists, and that ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge distinction.