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

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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Photo courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the third installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installment includes market leaders and subjects related to speeding up a fair and simply transition to a renewable resource 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 financing, sales, and capital markets expert with more than a years of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and real estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his proficiency and performance history of producing constant returns with an individual passion for helping transform neighborhoods and their influence on the planet. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his influence 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 start your company?
I had two critical minutes that made me jump. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas costs, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we could not pay for the gas costs. Therefore, sadly, we had our gas and heat turned off. For roughly a year in my teens, we needed to boil water and carry 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 progressing; those moments are with you permanently. As I talk about that with different groups around the nation, it has actually become clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A great deal of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good idea
The second turning point was probably 15 years ago, as I was working for a company that was purchasing a host of things around the globe. People were being available in to ask for an investment around renewable energy, and I posed a question to them: “What you are finishing with these solar companies is magnificent, and the expense of solar is coming down, however how does that assistance everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their access? They are paying a disproportionate amount of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even dare ask about the everyday people. They stated, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families often live 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 need to call private households and the expense of getting those people informed and after that registering for renewable resource is not a favorable organization design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing advancement and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market permanently. So I stopped my task. I believe I kipped down my resignation within six months of that conversation, and I began my business. Since that is the system number in the public housing where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. Whatever is I do is targeted to families in those situations and focused on enhancing their quality of life

Inform us about your business? (objective, partners, regions you run in, main customers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all households, everybody needs to have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to act as the bridge so that those innovations reach everybody. Thats what my mission is, and thankfully we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, but we will be announcing some new areas this fall

What can organizations 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 always valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a possibility to speak straight with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is amazing. Then, 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 products to support our jobs. Normalizing exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities deserve investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can potential partners work with you?
We are likewise constantly prepared to host individuals if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host individuals as soon as a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that traditionally havent had access. Im constantly challenging top executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been great just to meet the other Accelerate member business. I discovered a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with absolutely different viewpoints. I love the networking.
I think we are doing the finest 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.

Show us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be developing a $30 million, entirely sustainable and completely affordable development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 residential systems, a coffeehouse, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What impact are you making?
I believe there is constantly a shock when individuals learn who lags our company. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant believe it. To me, thats quite fulfilling. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is necessary is we have a financial impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite powerful message. Were intending to cut energy costs for households in half. Thats a huge offer, you know. That quantity of cash effects the spending plan of daily families
What obstacles do you deal with? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a business, any organization, 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 neighborhoods are still being red-lined. Some banks do not wish to invest; they dont wish to partner; they dont want to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to eliminate here, and weve made very little, incremental progress. I think the lesson is that coalition building is necessary. My voice only means a lot, however the more I can bring buddies to the table and magnify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need