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

Tell us about your business? (mission, partners, areas you run in, primary clients, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all families, everyone needs to have access. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone.

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 installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation features industry leaders and topics associated with accelerating a fair and just transition to an eco-friendly energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member business are flourishing in the renewable resource 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. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his knowledge and track record of producing consistent returns with a personal passion for assisting change communities and their influence on the planet. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect on Americas shift to a clean economy.
READ 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 pivotal minutes that made me jump. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas expense, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we could not pay for the gas costs. A lot of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not an excellent thing
The 2nd pivotal moment was probably 15 years back, as I was working for a company that was purchasing a host of things worldwide. People were being available in to ask for a financial investment around sustainable energy, and I postured a question to them: “What you are finishing with these solar firms is magnificent, and the cost of solar is boiling down, but how does that aid everyday individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their access? They are paying a disproportionate amount of their earnings on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even dare ask about the everyday individuals. They said, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income households typically reside in multi-family buildings, and it is difficult to get in contact with those building owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you need to get in touch with individual families and the expense of getting those individuals educated and after that signing up for renewable resource is not a beneficial company model.” I asked, “What if I owned the real estate development and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to alter the market permanently. So I stopped my job. I think I kipped down my resignation within six 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 everything is I do is targeted to families in those circumstances and focused on enhancing their lifestyle

Show us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be building a $30 million, totally sustainable and totally economical development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 domestic systems, a coffee bar, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
I think there is constantly a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant believe it.
The other thing that I believe is necessary is we have an economic impact that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty powerful message. Were aiming to cut energy costs for families in half. Thats a huge deal, you understand. That amount of money impacts the budget plan of everyday families
What challenges do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a company, any business, was going to be difficult. With that said, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and say that were constructing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they take a look at me like Ive spoken the wrong language. These communities are still being red-lined. Some banks do not wish to invest; they dont want to partner; they do not wish to do their share. It is a fight of generational size that Im attempting to eliminate here, and weve made really little, incremental development. I think the lesson is that union building is essential. My voice just means so much, however the more I can bring good friends to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement

I think there is always a shock when people discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people simply cant think it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everyone can share notes is always valuable. We are likewise constantly willing to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host people when a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were applying in communities that traditionally havent had access.

What can organizations like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a possibility to speak straight with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is incredible. If there are nationwide corporations that can support our work that can likewise be a big deal. Were presently dealing with a collaboration with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our tasks. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities are worthy of financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can potential partners work with you?
We are also constantly ready to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation 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 traditionally havent had access. Im constantly challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I think that has real 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 more about individuals with totally various 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, and that ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a big distinction.