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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Photo courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the 3rd installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation includes industry leaders and topics connected to accelerating a fair and simply shift to a renewable energy 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 professional with more than a years of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and genuine estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his competence and performance history of producing consistent returns with a personal passion for helping transform communities and their impact 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 tidy economy.
LEARNT MORE: Up-and-Comer Developer Makes Headway without the Banks ( Chicago Sun-Times, August 27, 2021).
What inspired you to begin your business?
I had two turning points that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas costs, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we could not pay for the gas bill. And so, unfortunately, we had our gas and heat turned off. For around a year in my teenagers, we needed to boil water and carry it as much as a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were distinctively bumpy rides, and experiences like that simply stick with you. I dont care what takes place the rest of your profession or what your quality of life is progressing; those moments are with you forever. As I discuss that with various groups around the nation, it has become clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A great deal of individuals have comparable anecdotes, whichs not a good idea
The 2nd turning point was most likely 15 years ago, as I was working for a company that was investing in a host of things around the world. Individuals were being available in to request for a financial investment around sustainable energy, and I presented a question to them: “What you are doing with these solar firms is spectacular, and the expense of solar is boiling down, but how does that assistance everyday individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their access? They are paying an out of proportion amount of their earnings on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt ask about the everyday individuals. They stated, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households frequently live 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 building owners, you need to contact specific families and the expense of getting those individuals informed and after that registering for renewable resource is not a beneficial company design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the real estate advancement and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to change the market forever. I quit my job. I think I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that conversation, and I started my company. Because that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. So everything is I do is targeted to families in those scenarios and concentrated on enhancing their lifestyle

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 always valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had an opportunity to speak directly with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is magnificent. Then, if there are national corporations that can support our work that can likewise be a huge deal. Were currently working on a collaboration with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our tasks. Normalizing exposure, standing beside us and saying “these communities deserve investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can potential partners do company with you?
We are also constantly willing to host individuals if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host people as soon as a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were applying in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to. Im always challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has genuine value
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been excellent simply to satisfy the other Accelerate member companies. I learned a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and learning more about individuals with completely various point of views. I like the networking.
I believe we are doing the finest we can do in the COVID environment. Just knowing that it exists, and that ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge distinction.

Tell us about your company? (objective, partners, regions you operate in, main consumers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all households, everybody should have gain access to. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone.

I think there is always a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant think it. Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is always important. We are also always prepared to host people 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 building so they can see the innovation that were applying in neighborhoods that historically have not had gain access to.

Share with us a current success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, entirely sustainable and completely economical advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 property units, a cafe, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What impact are you making?
When individuals learn who is behind our company, I think there is constantly a shock. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant think it. To me, thats quite satisfying. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is essential is we have a financial impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite effective message. Were intending to cut utility costs for households in half. Thats a huge deal, you understand. That quantity of cash impacts the budget plan of everyday families
What challenges do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a business, any business, was going to be tough. With that stated, 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 wrong language. These communities are still being red-lined. Some banks dont want to invest; they do not wish to partner; they do not want to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im trying to combat here, and weve made really little, incremental progress. I think the lesson is that coalition structure is necessary. My voice only suggests a lot, but the more I can bring buddies to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement