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 industry leaders and subjects related to accelerating a fair and simply shift to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are flourishing 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 realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his expertise and track record of producing constant returns with a personal enthusiasm for helping change neighborhoods and their influence on the world. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his impact on Americas shift to a clean economy.
CHECKED OUT MORE: Up-and-Comer Developer Makes Headway without the Banks ( Chicago Sun-Times, August 27, 2021).
What inspired you to start your business?
I had two essential minutes that made me leap. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas bill, and she was just making ten bucks an hour, so we could not manage the gas bill. Therefore, regrettably, we had our gas and heat shut off. For approximately a year in my teenagers, we had to boil water and bring it as much as a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were distinctively difficult times, and experiences like that just stick with you. I dont care what takes place the rest of your career or what your quality of life is moving on; those minutes are with you forever. As I speak about that with various groups around the country, it has actually become clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A lot of people have similar anecdotes, whichs not an advantage
They looked confused that I would even dare ask about the everyday individuals. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I began my company. I named it 548 Capital since that is the system number in the public housing where I grew up.

I think there is constantly a shock when individuals discover who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant believe it. Putting individuals in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always important. We are also always prepared to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host people as soon as a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally have not had access.

Tell us about your business? (objective, partners, regions you operate in, primary consumers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all communities, all households, everybody ought to have access. Someone, some entity, needs to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody. Thats what my mission is, and thankfully we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be revealing some new locations this fall

What can companies 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 valuable. Stabilizing exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities are worthy of investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can prospective partners do business 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 communities. We host people when a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to. Im always difficult top executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has real worth
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been terrific just to fulfill the other Accelerate member business. I learned a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with absolutely various perspectives. I enjoy 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 big distinction.

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be developing a $30 million, entirely sustainable and totally budget friendly advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 residential systems, a coffee bar, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What impact are you making?
I believe there is constantly a shock when people discover who lags our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, people simply cant think it. To me, thats quite satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is crucial is we have a financial impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite powerful message. That amount of money impacts the budget of everyday families
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning an organization, any service, was going to be hard. 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 neighborhoods, 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 wish to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a fight of generational size that Im trying to eliminate here, and weve made really small, incremental progress. I believe the lesson is that coalition structure is very important. My voice only means a lot, but the more I can bring pals to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement