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 happy to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation includes industry leaders and subjects related to speeding up an equitable and simply transition to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are thriving in the eco-friendly energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets specialist with more than a years of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and genuine estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his know-how and track record of developing consistent returns with a personal passion for helping transform neighborhoods and their impact on the planet. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect on Americas transition 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 company?
I had two pivotal minutes that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas bill, and she was just making 10 bucks an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas bill. A lot of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The second turning point was probably 15 years ago, as I was working for a company that was investing in a host of things worldwide. People were can be found in to request for a financial investment around renewable resource, and I postured a question to them: “What you are doing with these solar companies is amazing, and the expense of solar is boiling down, however how does that assistance daily people?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their access? They are paying an out of proportion amount of their earnings on energy.” They looked confused that I would even dare inquire about the daily individuals. They stated, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income households often live in multi-family buildings, and it is tough to get in contact with those developing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to get in touch with private families and the cost of getting those people educated and after that signing up for sustainable energy is not a favorable organization model.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing development and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to change the marketplace forever. So I stopped my task. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I started my business. Since that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. Everything is I do is targeted to families in those scenarios and focused on improving their quality of life

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, totally cost effective and completely sustainable advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 residential systems, a coffee store, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
When people discover who is behind our company, I believe there is constantly a shock. Even in our own communities, people simply cant believe it. To me, thats pretty satisfying. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have an economic effect that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty effective message. That amount of money impacts the budget plan of everyday households
What obstacles do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a business, any business, was going to be tough. With that stated, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and state that were developing sustainable real estate in low- and moderate-income communities, they look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. Some banks do not wish to invest; they do not want to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a fight of generational size that Im attempting to eliminate here, and weve made very little, incremental progress. I think the lesson is that union building is necessary. My voice just implies so much, however the more I can bring friends to the table and magnify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need

Inform us about your company? (mission, partners, regions you operate in, main customers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all families, everybody should have gain access to. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone.

I think there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, individuals just cant believe it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly important. We are likewise always ready to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. We host individuals when a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that historically have not had access.

So what can companies 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 constantly important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a possibility to speak straight with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is spectacular. If there are national corporations that can support our work that can also be a big deal. Were presently dealing with a collaboration with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our tasks. Stabilizing exposure, standing next to us and saying “these neighborhoods deserve financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can possible partners do organization with you?
We are also always prepared 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 applying in neighborhoods that historically havent had access. Im always difficult leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been excellent just to fulfill the other Accelerate member companies. I discovered a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and learning more about individuals with absolutely various perspectives. I enjoy the networking.
I believe we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, which ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge difference.