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

Tell 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 neighborhoods, all families, everybody must have access. Somebody, some entity, needs to work as the bridge so that those innovations reach everybody. Thats what my objective is, and thankfully we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be revealing some new locations this fall

I believe there is constantly a shock when people learn who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant think it. Putting individuals in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always important. We are also always willing to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host individuals when a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to.

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installment includes industry leaders and topics connected to speeding up a fair and simply shift to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are flourishing in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets professional with more than a decade of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his expertise and track record of developing consistent returns with a personal passion 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 impact 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 business?
I had 2 critical moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas expense, and she was only making ten bucks an hour, so we could not pay for the gas costs. And so, sadly, we had our gas and heat shut off. For roughly a year in my teenagers, we had to boil water and carry it up to a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely bumpy rides, and experiences like that simply stick with you. I dont care what occurs the rest of your profession or what your lifestyle is moving forward; those moments are with you forever. As I discuss that with different groups around the country, it has ended up being clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A lot of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not a great thing
They looked puzzled that I would even attempt ask about the everyday people. I think I turned in my resignation within six months of that conversation, and I started my business. I called it 548 Capital since that is the unit number in the public housing where I grew up.

So what can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in rooms together so everyone can share notes is always important. Stabilizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these neighborhoods are worthwhile of financial investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can potential partners work with you?
Today, we are Chicago-focused. We are always looking for partners to invest, use debt or buy some tax credits, thats the very first ask. We are also always ready to host people if they desire to see a few of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host individuals when a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in communities that traditionally have not had gain access to. We are also going to be broadening our board. Since I think that has genuine worth, Im always difficult leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been excellent simply to meet the other Accelerate member business. I learned a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and learning about people with absolutely various perspectives. 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.

Show us a recent success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, entirely sustainable and completely economical advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 property systems, a coffee bar, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What impact are you making?
I believe there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant believe it.
The other thing that I think is very important is we have an economic impact that resonates with people, and its a pretty effective message. Were intending to cut utility expenses for households in half. Thats a big deal, you understand. That quantity of cash effects the budget plan of daily households
What obstacles do you deal with? Why?
When I go to banks and state that were developing sustainable real estate in low- and moderate-income communities, they look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. I believe the lesson is that union structure is crucial.