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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is happy to share the third installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation includes industry leaders and topics related to speeding up an equitable and simply transition to a sustainable energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are growing 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 real estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his expertise and track record of developing constant returns with an individual passion for helping transform neighborhoods and their impact on the world. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his influence on Americas transition to a clean 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 two turning points that made me leap. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas expense, and she was just making 10 dollars an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas costs. Therefore, regrettably, we had our gas and heat turned off. For approximately a year in my teens, we had to boil water and bring it approximately a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were distinctively difficult times, and experiences like that simply stick with you. I dont care what happens the rest of your career or what your lifestyle is moving on; those moments are with you forever. As I discuss that with different groups around the nation, it has become clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A great deal of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
They looked confused that I would even attempt ask about the daily people. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I began my business. I named it 548 Capital because that is the unit number in the public housing where I grew up.

Inform us about your company? (mission, partners, areas you operate in, primary clients, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all families, everyone must have access. Somebody, some entity, needs to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone. Thats what my objective is, and thankfully we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be revealing some brand-new places 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 constantly important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a chance to speak directly with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is spectacular. Then, if there are national corporations that can support our work that can also be a huge offer. Were currently working on a partnership with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our jobs. Stabilizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these neighborhoods deserve investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can potential partners do service with you?
We are likewise always prepared to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host individuals when a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally have not had gain access to. Im constantly challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has real value
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been terrific just to satisfy the other Accelerate member companies. I found out a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering about people with absolutely different viewpoints. I enjoy the networking.
I believe we are doing the best we can do in the COVID environment. Simply knowing that it exists, which ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a big distinction.

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be building a $30 million, completely inexpensive and completely sustainable advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 property units, a coffee store, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
When people learn who is behind our business, I think there is always a shock. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant believe it. To me, thats quite rewarding. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is important is we have an economic impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite powerful message. That quantity of cash impacts the budget plan of daily households
What difficulties do you deal with? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a business, any service, was going to be hard. With that said, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and state that were developing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they look at me like Ive spoken the wrong language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. Some banks dont desire to invest; they do not wish to partner; they do not wish to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to combat here, and weve made very small, incremental development. I think the lesson is that union building is essential. My voice only indicates a lot, however the more I can bring good friends to the table and amplify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need

I think there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, people simply cant think it. Putting people in spaces together so everybody can share notes is always valuable. We are likewise always prepared to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host people when a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were applying in neighborhoods that historically havent had gain access to.