By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installment features market leaders and subjects connected to speeding up an equitable and simply transition to a renewable energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are growing in the sustainable energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets expert 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 integrate his proficiency and performance history of developing consistent 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 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 two pivotal moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mother received a $400 gas expense, and she was only making 10 dollars an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas costs. And so, sadly, we had our gas and heat shut off. For approximately a year in my teens, we needed to boil water and bring it as much as a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were distinctively bumpy rides, and experiences like that simply stick to you. I dont care what happens the rest of your profession or what your lifestyle is moving on; those moments are with you permanently. As I speak about that with various groups around the nation, it has actually ended up being clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, whichs not an excellent thing
The 2nd turning point was probably 15 years back, as I was working for a firm that was investing in a host of things around the globe. People were can be found in to request an investment around renewable resource, and I positioned a concern to them: “What you are making with these solar companies is magnificent, and the cost of solar is coming down, but how does that aid everyday individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their gain access to? They are paying an out of proportion quantity of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the daily individuals. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households often reside in multi-family structures, and it is hard to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to call specific households and the cost of getting those individuals informed and after that subscribing to renewable resource is not a favorable organization model.” I asked, “What if I owned the real estate advancement and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to change the marketplace forever. So I stopped my job. I think I kipped down my resignation within 6 months of that conversation, and I began my business. Because that is the system number in the public real estate where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. So whatever is I do is targeted to households in those situations and focused on enhancing their quality of life
Share with us a recent success story.
We recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, completely sustainable and entirely cost effective development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 domestic units, a coffee shop, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
When individuals learn who is behind our company, I believe there is constantly a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant believe it. To me, thats quite fulfilling. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is crucial is we have a financial impact that resonates with people, and its a pretty effective message. Were aiming to cut energy expenditures for households in half. Thats a big deal, you understand. That amount of cash effects the budget plan of daily households
What difficulties do you deal with? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a company, any organization, was going to be hard. With that stated, access to capital is ungodly hard. When I go to banks and say that were constructing sustainable real estate in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they take a look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. Some banks do not want to invest; they dont wish to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to fight here, and weve made very small, incremental development. I think the lesson is that coalition structure is essential. My voice just suggests a lot, but the more I can bring good friends to the table and magnify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement
Tell us about your company? (objective, partners, areas you operate in, primary clients, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all communities, all households, everybody should have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to work as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone. Thats what my objective is, and thankfully we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, but we will be revealing some brand-new locations this fall
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 important. Stabilizing exposure, standing next to us and stating “these neighborhoods are worthwhile of financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can potential partners do organization with you?
Now, we are Chicago-focused. We are always searching for partners to invest, provide debt or buy some tax credits, thats the very first ask. If they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities, we are also constantly ready to host people. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host people as soon as a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were applying in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to. We are also going to be expanding our board. Im always difficult top executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I think that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been great just to meet the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and learning more about individuals with completely different perspectives. 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, and that ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge distinction.
I think there is always a shock when people discover who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, individuals just cant believe it. Putting people in rooms together so everyone can share notes is constantly valuable. We are also always willing 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 building so they can see the technology that were applying in neighborhoods that historically havent had access.