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 delighted to share the third installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installment features market leaders and topics related to speeding up an equitable and simply shift to an eco-friendly energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are prospering in the eco-friendly 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 property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his expertise and track record of creating constant returns with an individual passion for assisting 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 influence on Americas transition to a tidy 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 minutes that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas costs, and she was just making ten bucks an hour, so we couldnt pay for the gas costs. A lot of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The 2nd pivotal minute was most likely 15 years earlier, as I was working for a firm that was purchasing a host of things around the world. People were can be found in to request an investment around renewable resource, and I postured a question to them: “What you are doing with these solar companies is spectacular, and the cost of solar is coming down, however how does that help daily people?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their access? They are paying an out of proportion quantity of their earnings on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even dare inquire about the everyday individuals. They stated, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households typically reside in multi-family structures, and it is difficult to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you have to get in touch with individual households and the expense of getting those people educated and then subscribing to sustainable energy is not a favorable organization model.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing development 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 began my business. Since that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up, I called it 548 Capital. Whatever is I do is targeted to households in those situations and focused on enhancing their quality of life

I think there is always a shock when individuals discover who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant believe it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly valuable. We are likewise constantly prepared to host individuals 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 communities that historically have not had access.

What can companies 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. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these neighborhoods are worthy of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can possible partners work with you?
Today, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly trying to find partners to invest, provide debt or buy some tax credits, thats the first ask. We are also always ready to host people if they wish to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host individuals 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. We are also going to be broadening our board. Im always challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts because I believe that has real worth
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been fantastic simply to fulfill the other Accelerate member companies. I learned a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering about people with totally different viewpoints. I love the networking.
I believe we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, which ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big difference.

Share with us a recent success story.
We just recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, entirely sustainable and totally budget friendly development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 property systems, a coffeehouse, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
I believe there is always a shock when individuals learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people simply cant think it.
The other thing that I think is necessary is we have an economic impact 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 money effects the budget of everyday 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 communities are still being red-lined. I believe the lesson is that union structure is crucial.

Tell us about your company? (objective, partners, regions you run in, main clients, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all families, everyone should have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone.