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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is happy to share the 3rd installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installment includes industry leaders and topics connected to speeding up a fair and simply shift to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member companies are thriving in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets specialist with more than a decade of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his competence and track record of producing consistent returns with an individual enthusiasm for helping transform communities and their influence on the planet. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his impact on Americas shift 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 begin your company?
I had 2 essential 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 manage the gas bill. And so, regrettably, we had our gas and heat shut down. For around a year in my teenagers, 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 simply stick to you. I do not care what takes place the rest of your profession or what your quality of life is moving forward; those minutes are with you permanently. As I speak about that with various groups around the country, it has actually become clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A great deal of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not an advantage
The second turning point was most likely 15 years ago, as I was working for a firm that was buying a host of things worldwide. Individuals were can be found in to ask for an investment around sustainable energy, and I posed a concern to them: “What you are finishing with these solar firms is incredible, and the cost of solar is boiling down, however how does that aid everyday individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their gain access to? They are paying a disproportionate amount of their earnings on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the daily people. They stated, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income families typically reside in multi-family structures, and it is difficult to get in contact with those developing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you need to call specific households and the cost of getting those people informed and then registering for renewable resource is not a beneficial service design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing development and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to change the market forever. I stopped my job. I believe I kipped down my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I began my business. I named it 548 Capital because that is the system number in the general public real estate where I matured. So whatever is I do is targeted to households in those scenarios and concentrated on improving their lifestyle

What can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting individuals in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a chance to speak directly with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is incredible. Then, if there are national corporations that can support our work that can also be a big deal. Were presently working on a partnership with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our jobs. Normalizing exposure, standing next to us and stating “these communities are worthy of financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can prospective partners do service with you?
We are also constantly ready to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. We host people when a week at our building so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to. Im constantly challenging top executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I think that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been excellent just to fulfill the other Accelerate member business. I learned a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and learning about individuals with absolutely various perspectives. I love the networking.
I believe we are doing the 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 distinction.

Inform us about your company? (mission, partners, regions you operate in, main clients, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all communities, all households, everyone needs to have gain access to. Someone, some entity, has to act as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone. Thats what my mission is, and luckily we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be revealing some brand-new areas this fall

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, completely sustainable and entirely affordable development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 residential systems, a coffeehouse, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
When people learn who is behind our company, I think there is always a shock. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant think it. To me, thats quite rewarding. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is necessary is we have an economic impact that resonates with people, and its a quite effective message. Were aiming to cut utility expenditures for families in half. Thats a huge deal, you know. That quantity of money effects the spending plan of everyday households
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a business, any organization, was going to be difficult. With that said, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and state that were building sustainable real estate in low- and moderate-income communities, they look at me like Ive spoken the wrong language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. Some banks do not desire to invest; they dont want to partner; they dont want to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to eliminate here, and weve made extremely little, incremental development. I believe the lesson is that union structure is essential. My voice just means a lot, however the more I can bring friends to the table and amplify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement

I think there is constantly a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, people just cant think it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everybody can share notes is constantly important. 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 individuals as soon as a week at our building so they can see the technology that were using in communities that historically havent had gain access to.