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 pleased to share the third installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installment features market leaders and subjects connected to accelerating an equitable and just transition to an eco-friendly energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member business are flourishing in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets professional with more than a decade of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his knowledge and performance history of developing consistent returns with an individual enthusiasm for assisting change 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.
CHECKED OUT 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 pivotal minutes that made me jump. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas costs, and she was just making 10 dollars an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas expense. Therefore, regrettably, we had our gas and heat shut down. For approximately a year in my teens, we needed 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 dont care what takes place the rest of your career or what your quality of life is moving forward; those moments are with you forever. As I speak about that with different groups around the country, it has become clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A great deal of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good idea
They looked confused that I would even dare ask about the daily individuals. I think I turned in my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I began my company. I called it 548 Capital since that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up.

Inform us about your company? (mission, 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 should have access. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everybody.

Share with us a recent success story.
We just recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, completely sustainable and totally economical advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 residential systems, a coffee bar, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered usage in the city
What impact are you making?
I think there is constantly a shock when individuals learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant think it.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have a financial impact that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty effective message. Were intending to cut energy expenses for families in half. Thats a huge deal, you know. That amount of cash effects the budget plan of daily households
What obstacles do you face? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a service, any company, was going to be tough. With that said, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and state that were developing 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 wish to invest; they do not wish to partner; they do not desire to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to battle here, and weve made extremely little, incremental progress. I think the lesson is that union building is necessary. My voice only suggests a lot, but the more I can bring friends to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need

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 constantly important. Stabilizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities are worthy of investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can potential partners work with you?
We are likewise always willing to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation 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 applying in neighborhoods that historically havent had gain access to. Im always challenging top executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I think that has real value
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been great just to satisfy the other Accelerate member companies. I found out a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and learning more about people with totally various viewpoints. I love the networking.
I believe we are doing the best we can do in the COVID environment. Just knowing that it exists, and that ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big distinction.

I think there is always a shock when individuals learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant think it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everybody can share notes is always important. We are likewise always prepared to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. We host people as soon as a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that historically havent had gain access to.