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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Picture courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installment features industry leaders and subjects associated with speeding up a fair and just shift to a renewable resource economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member companies are prospering 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 investment banking, endowment management, and real estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his knowledge and performance history of producing consistent returns with an individual passion for helping change neighborhoods and their effect on the world. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect 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 essential moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas bill, and she was just making 10 bucks an hour, so we could not manage the gas costs. A lot of individuals have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The second critical minute was most likely 15 years earlier, as I was working for a firm that was purchasing a host of things all over the world. People were coming in to request for a financial investment around sustainable energy, and I postured a concern to them: “What you are doing with these solar firms is spectacular, and the cost of solar is coming down, but how does that aid daily individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their gain access to? They are paying a disproportionate quantity of their earnings on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even dare ask about the everyday people. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income families often reside in multi-family structures, and it is hard to get in contact with those building owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you need to contact specific households and the cost of getting those people educated and after that subscribing to sustainable energy is not a beneficial business design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the real estate advancement and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to change the market permanently. So I stopped my task. I think I turned in my resignation within six months of that conversation, and I started my business. I named it 548 Capital since that is the unit number in the public housing where I matured. Whatever is I do is targeted to families in those scenarios and focused on enhancing their quality of life

What can organizations 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 exposure, standing next to us and stating “these neighborhoods are worthwhile of investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can possible partners do business with you?
We are likewise always prepared to host individuals if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host people as soon as a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access. Im always difficult top executives to put their name and face on these efforts because I think that has genuine worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been great simply to fulfill the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and finding out about individuals with completely various viewpoints. I enjoy the networking.
I believe we are doing the finest we can do in the COVID environment. Simply understanding that it exists, which ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big difference.

Inform us about your company? (mission, partners, regions you run in, primary clients, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all families, everyone needs to have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everybody.

Show us a recent success story.
We recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be constructing a $30 million, entirely budget friendly and completely sustainable advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 domestic systems, a coffee bar, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage 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 neighborhoods, 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 an economic impact that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty effective message. That amount of cash effects the budget of everyday households
What challenges do you face? Why?
When I go to banks and say 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. I believe the lesson is that coalition structure is crucial.

I think there is constantly a shock when individuals discover who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant think it. Putting people in spaces together so everybody can share notes is always valuable. We are also constantly willing to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host people as soon as a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access.