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 happy to share the 3rd installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installment includes market leaders and topics related to accelerating an equitable and simply shift to a sustainable energy economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are flourishing in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets professional with more than a decade of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his competence and performance history of producing constant returns with an individual 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 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 business?
I had 2 pivotal moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas bill, and she was only making ten bucks an hour, so we could not pay for the gas costs. And so, sadly, we had our gas and heat shut off. For approximately a year in my teens, we had to boil water and bring it as much as a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely difficult times, and experiences like that just stick with you. I do not care what takes place the rest of your profession or what your lifestyle is moving forward; those minutes are with you forever. As I talk about that with various groups around the nation, it has actually become clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A lot of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not an excellent thing
The 2nd critical minute was probably 15 years back, as I was working for a firm that was investing in a host of things worldwide. People were coming in to request an investment around sustainable energy, and I posed a concern to them: “What you are finishing with these solar firms is incredible, and the expense of solar is boiling down, however how does that aid daily people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their gain access to? They are paying an out of proportion amount of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the everyday people. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households frequently live in multi-family buildings, and it is difficult to get in contact with those developing owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you need to call specific families and the cost of getting those individuals informed and after that subscribing to eco-friendly energy is not a beneficial business design.” I asked, “What if I owned the housing advancement and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market forever. So I stopped my job. I think I kipped down my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I started my company. I named it 548 Capital because that is the system number in the public housing where I matured. So everything is I do is targeted to families in those circumstances and focused on improving their lifestyle

Tell us about your business? (mission, partners, regions you operate in, main consumers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all households, everybody should have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to function as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone. Thats what my objective is, and luckily we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be revealing some new locations this fall

So 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 constantly important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a possibility to speak straight with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is incredible. Then, if there are national corporations that can support our work that can likewise be a huge offer. Were presently dealing with a partnership with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our tasks. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities deserve investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can prospective partners do company with you?
We are likewise constantly prepared to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host individuals as soon as a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in communities that historically have not had gain access to. Im always tough leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I believe that has real worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been great just to satisfy the other Accelerate member companies. 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 think we are doing the best we can do in the COVID environment. Simply knowing that it exists, and that ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big difference.

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

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be developing a $30 million, totally affordable and totally sustainable advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 property systems, a cafe, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
When people learn who is behind our company, I believe there is always a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant think it. To me, thats quite satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have an economic effect that resonates with people, and its a pretty effective message. Were intending to cut utility expenditures for households in half. Thats a big deal, you understand. That amount of money effects the budget of everyday families
What challenges do you face? Why?
When I go to banks and state that were developing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income communities, they look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. I think the lesson is that coalition structure is crucial.