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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Picture courtesy of 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 includes market leaders and subjects associated with speeding up a fair and just shift to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are growing in the eco-friendly energy 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 property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his proficiency and performance history of developing constant returns with a personal enthusiasm for helping transform communities and their impact 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 clean economy.
FOUND OUT 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 critical moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas bill, and she was just making 10 dollars an hour, so we could not pay for the gas bill. A lot of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The second turning point was most likely 15 years back, as I was working for a firm that was buying a host of things around the world. People were being available in to request for an investment around eco-friendly energy, and I posed a concern to them: “What you are making with these solar firms is magnificent, and the cost of solar is coming down, but how does that help daily individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their access? They are paying a disproportionate amount of their income on energy.” They looked confused that I would even dare inquire about the daily people. They stated, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families often reside in multi-family buildings, and it is hard to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you need to call individual families and the cost of getting those people informed and after that subscribing to sustainable energy is not a favorable service design.” I asked, “What if I owned the real estate development and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the marketplace permanently. I stopped my task. I think I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I started my company. Because that is the system number in the public housing where I grew up, I called it 548 Capital. Everything is I do is targeted to families in those scenarios and focused on enhancing their quality of life

Inform us about your company? (objective, 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 gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to act as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone. Thats what my mission is, and thankfully we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be announcing some brand-new areas this fall

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be building a $30 million, entirely cost effective and completely sustainable development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 residential systems, a coffee store, a business center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
I think there is constantly a shock when individuals learn who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, people simply cant think it.
The other thing that I believe is very important is we have an economic effect that resonates with people, and its a quite powerful message. Were aiming to cut utility expenditures for families in half. Thats a big offer, you know. That amount of cash impacts the spending plan of daily families
What obstacles do you face? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting an organization, any service, was going to be hard. With that stated, access to capital is ungodly difficult. When I go to banks and say that were constructing sustainable real estate 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 do not want to invest; they do not wish to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im trying to combat here, and weve made very small, incremental development. I believe the lesson is that coalition structure is necessary. My voice only suggests a lot, but the more I can bring good friends to the table and amplify 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 individuals in spaces together so everybody can share notes is constantly valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had an opportunity to speak directly with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is magnificent. If there are national corporations that can support our work that can also be a huge deal. Were presently dealing with a collaboration with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our tasks. Normalizing exposure, standing beside us and saying “these neighborhoods are worthwhile of financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can possible partners do business with you?
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 individuals once a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were applying in communities that traditionally havent had access. Im constantly tough top executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I believe that has real worth
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been great just to fulfill the other Accelerate member companies. I discovered a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and finding out about individuals with absolutely various viewpoints. I like the networking.
I think we are doing the finest we can do in the COVID environment. Simply understanding that it exists, which ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big difference.

I think there is always a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people simply cant think it. Putting people in rooms together so everyone can share notes is constantly important. We are also always ready to host individuals if they desire 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 historically have not had gain access to.