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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is happy to share the third installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation features market leaders and topics associated with accelerating a fair and just transition to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member business are growing in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets specialist with more than a years of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and real estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his proficiency and track record of creating consistent returns with a personal passion for assisting change communities and their influence on the planet. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his impact 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 critical moments that made me jump. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas costs, and she was only making 10 bucks 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 distinctively difficult times, and experiences like that just stick to you. I do not care what takes place the rest of your career or what your quality of life is moving on; those minutes are with you permanently. As I speak about that with different groups around the nation, it has actually ended up being clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, whichs not a good thing
The 2nd essential minute was most likely 15 years back, as I was working for a firm that was investing in a host of things around the world. Individuals were being available in to ask for an investment around renewable resource, and I posed a question to them: “What you are making with these solar firms is amazing, and the expense of solar is coming down, but how does that assistance daily 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 attempt inquire about the everyday individuals. They said, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income households frequently live in multi-family buildings, and it is difficult to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you need to get in touch with individual households and the cost of getting those individuals informed and after that signing up for renewable energy is not a beneficial organization design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the real estate development and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to change the market forever. So I quit my job. I believe I turned in my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I began my business. Since that is the system number in the public housing where I grew up, I called it 548 Capital. Whatever is I do is targeted to households in those circumstances and focused on improving their quality of life

Show us a current success story.
We recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, completely sustainable and completely budget-friendly development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 domestic systems, a coffee bar, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
When people discover who is behind our company, I believe there is constantly a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant believe it. To me, thats pretty rewarding. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is important is we have an economic impact that resonates with people, and its a pretty powerful message. That amount of cash impacts the budget plan of daily families
What difficulties do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a company, any organization, was going to be difficult. With that said, access to capital is ungodly hard. When I go to banks and say that were constructing sustainable real estate in low- and moderate-income communities, they look at me like Ive spoken the wrong language. These communities are still being red-lined. Some banks do not wish to invest; they do not want to partner; they do not 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 union structure is necessary. My voice only means so much, however the more I can bring friends to the table and amplify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement

Tell us about your company? (mission, partners, areas you run in, primary customers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all families, everybody ought to have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to function as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone. Thats what my mission is, and fortunately we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, but we will be announcing some brand-new places this fall

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

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 chance to speak directly with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is magnificent. Then, if there are national corporations that can support our work that can likewise be a huge offer. Were currently dealing with a collaboration with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our tasks. Normalizing direct exposure, standing beside us and saying “these communities deserve investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can possible partners do organization with you?
Now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly searching for partners to invest, use debt or purchase some tax credits, thats the very first ask. We are likewise always going to host individuals if they wish to see a few of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host people once a week at our building so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that historically havent had access. We are likewise going to be broadening our board. Im constantly difficult magnates to put their name and face on these efforts since I think that has real value
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been excellent simply to meet the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with totally different point of views. I enjoy 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 deliberate about the program, makes a huge distinction.