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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Picture 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 installment features market leaders and subjects associated with speeding up an equitable and simply shift to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are thriving in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets professional with more than a decade of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his knowledge and track record of creating consistent returns with an individual enthusiasm for assisting transform neighborhoods and their effect on the planet. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect on Americas transition 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 start your company?
I had 2 essential minutes that made me leap. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas expense, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we couldnt manage the gas costs. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, and thats not an excellent thing
The second turning point was probably 15 years earlier, as I was working for a firm that was investing in a host of things worldwide. Individuals were can be found in to ask for a financial investment around renewable resource, and I posed a concern to them: “What you are finishing with these solar firms is amazing, and the cost of solar is coming down, but how does that help daily people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their gain access to? They are paying an out of proportion amount of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the everyday individuals. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income families typically live in multi-family structures, and it is hard to get in contact with those developing owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you need to call private families and the cost of getting those individuals educated and then subscribing to renewable resource is not a beneficial service model.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing advancement and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to alter the marketplace permanently. I stopped my job. I think I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I started my business. I called it 548 Capital because that is the system number in the general public housing where I matured. So whatever is I do is targeted to households in those circumstances and focused on enhancing their quality of life

What can organizations like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always important. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these neighborhoods are deserving of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can prospective partners do service with you?
Now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly looking for partners to invest, offer debt or buy some tax credits, thats the first ask. If they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities, we are also always willing to host individuals. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host individuals once a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that historically have not had access. We are also going to be expanding our board. Im constantly difficult leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I think that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been great just to satisfy the other Accelerate member business. I discovered a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with absolutely various viewpoints. I enjoy the networking.
I believe we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Just understanding that it exists, which ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a huge distinction.

Show us a recent success story.
We just recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to reveal that we will be building a $30 million, totally budget friendly and entirely sustainable development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 residential units, a coffee bar, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What impact are you making?
I think there is constantly a shock when individuals learn who lags our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant believe it. To me, thats pretty gratifying. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is necessary is we have an economic impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite powerful message. Were intending to cut energy costs for families in half. Thats a huge offer, you understand. That amount of money effects the budget of daily households
What obstacles do you face? Why?
When I go to banks and say that were building 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. I think the lesson is that union building is essential.

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

I believe there is constantly a shock when individuals discover 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 important. We are also constantly willing to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. 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.