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

Tell us about your company? (mission, partners, regions you run in, primary consumers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all neighborhoods, all households, everyone should have access. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everybody.

Show us a recent success story.
We just recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be building a $30 million, completely sustainable and completely affordable development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 property systems, a cafe, a business 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 always a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant think it. To me, thats pretty gratifying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is crucial is we have a financial impact that resonates with people, and its a quite effective message. That quantity of money effects the budget of everyday families
What obstacles do you deal with? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a company, any organization, was going to be tough. With that said, access to capital is ungodly hard. When I go to banks and state 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 dont desire to invest; they dont desire to partner; they dont desire to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to combat here, and weve made extremely small, incremental progress. I believe the lesson is that coalition structure is very important. My voice only means so much, but the more I can bring pals to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need

I believe there is constantly a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant believe it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everybody can share notes is constantly valuable. We are likewise always willing to host individuals 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 technology that were applying in communities that traditionally have not had gain access to.

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image courtesy of 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 includes industry leaders and subjects related to speeding up an equitable and simply transition to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member companies are prospering in the renewable resource 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 realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his know-how and performance history of producing constant returns with an individual passion for helping change communities and their effect 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.
LEARNT 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 two essential minutes that made me jump. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas bill, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we couldnt manage the gas expense. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The 2nd essential moment was probably 15 years ago, as I was working for a firm that was buying a host of things worldwide. Individuals were being available in to request for an investment around sustainable energy, and I postured a concern to them: “What you are making with these solar firms is magnificent, and the cost of solar is boiling down, however how does that help everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their access? They are paying a disproportionate quantity of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the everyday people. They stated, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families often reside in multi-family buildings, and it is tough to get in contact with those developing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to get in touch with specific households and the cost of getting those people educated and then registering for sustainable energy is not a beneficial service model.” I asked, “What if I owned the housing development and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to alter the marketplace forever. So I stopped my job. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I started my business. Because that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. Whatever is I do is targeted to households in those scenarios and focused on enhancing their quality of life

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 important. Normalizing exposure, standing next to us and stating “these communities are worthwhile of financial investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can possible partners work with you?
Right now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly trying to find partners to invest, use debt or buy some tax credits, thats the first ask. We are also constantly happy to host people if they desire to see a few of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host people once a week at our building so they can see the technology that were using in communities that traditionally havent had gain access to. We are also going to be expanding our board. Because I believe that has real value, Im constantly challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been terrific just to satisfy the other Accelerate member companies. I discovered a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and finding out about people with absolutely different point of views. 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, which ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a huge difference.