Renewable Power Perspectives Q&A with Robert “A.J.” Patton, CEO of 548 Capital, LLC.
Inform us about your company? (mission, partners, regions you run in, primary customers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all communities, all families, everyone ought to have access. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone.
By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Picture thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the third installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation includes market leaders and subjects associated with speeding up an equitable and just shift to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are flourishing in the sustainable energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets specialist 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 integrate his expertise and track record of producing consistent returns with an individual enthusiasm for helping transform communities and their effect on the world. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect on Americas transition to a tidy economy.
LEARNT 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 critical minutes that made me jump. In 1999, my mother received a $400 gas expense, and she was just making 10 dollars an hour, so we could not pay for the gas expense. A lot of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not an excellent thing
The 2nd essential minute was probably 15 years back, as I was working for a firm that was buying a host of things all over the world. People were coming in to ask for a financial investment around eco-friendly energy, and I postured a concern to them: “What you are doing with these solar companies is magnificent, and the expense of solar is boiling down, but how does that assistance everyday individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their gain access to? They are paying an out of proportion quantity of their earnings on energy.” They looked confused that I would even dare inquire about the daily individuals. They said, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families often live in multi-family structures, and it is tough to get in contact with those building owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you have to get in touch with private families and the expense of getting those people informed and after that subscribing to renewable resource is not a favorable service model.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing development and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market forever. I stopped my job. I think I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that conversation, and I started my business. I called it 548 Capital because that is the system number in the general public real estate where I grew up. So everything is I do is targeted to families in those circumstances and concentrated on enhancing their lifestyle
Share with us a current success story.
We just recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be building a $30 million, completely sustainable and entirely affordable development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 domestic systems, a coffee store, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
I think there is constantly a shock when people discover who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, people just cant believe it. To me, thats pretty fulfilling. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is important is we have a financial effect that resonates with individuals, and its a quite powerful message. That amount of cash impacts the spending plan of daily households
What challenges do you face? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a service, any business, was going to be difficult. With that said, access to capital is ungodly difficult. When I go to banks and say that were developing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income communities, they take a look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These communities are still being red-lined. Some banks do not wish to invest; they dont wish to partner; they do not desire to do their share. It is a fight of generational size that Im attempting to eliminate here, and weve made extremely little, incremental progress. I think the lesson is that union building is essential. My voice only suggests so much, but the more I can bring good friends to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement
I believe there is constantly a shock when individuals learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant think it. Putting people in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always important. We are likewise constantly ready to host individuals if they want 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 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 everybody can share notes is constantly valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had an opportunity to speak straight with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is magnificent. If there are nationwide corporations that can support our work that can also be a big offer. Were currently dealing with a collaboration with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our projects. Normalizing exposure, standing next to us and stating “these neighborhoods deserve financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can prospective partners work with you?
Right now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly searching for partners to invest, offer financial obligation or purchase some tax credits, thats the very first ask. We are also constantly going to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host individuals once a week at our building so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally have not had access. We are also going to be broadening our board. Due to the fact that I believe that has genuine value, Im always challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been terrific just to meet the other Accelerate member companies. I discovered a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with completely different viewpoints. I like 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 intentional about the program, makes a huge difference.