Renewable Power Perspectives Q&A with Robert “A.J.” Patton, CEO of 548 Capital, LLC.
Tell us about your business? (objective, partners, areas you run in, main clients, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all households, everyone should have access. Somebody, some entity, needs to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody. Thats what my objective is, and fortunately we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, but we will be announcing some new areas this fall
By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation includes industry leaders and topics related to accelerating an equitable and just transition to a sustainable energy economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are growing in the eco-friendly energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets specialist with more than a years of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his competence and performance history of developing constant returns with an individual passion for helping change communities and their effect on the planet. 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.
FOUND OUT MORE: Up-and-Comer Developer Makes Headway without the Banks ( Chicago Sun-Times, August 27, 2021).
What inspired you to begin your company?
I had two critical moments that made me jump. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas costs, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we couldnt pay for the gas costs. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, and thats not a great thing
The 2nd essential moment was probably 15 years earlier, as I was working for a company that was buying a host of things all over the world. People were being available in to request for a financial investment around eco-friendly energy, and I positioned a question to them: “What you are making with these solar companies is incredible, and the expense of solar is coming down, however how does that aid daily people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their gain access to? They are paying an out of proportion amount of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the everyday people. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income families typically live in multi-family structures, and it is tough to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to get in touch with specific families and the expense of getting those people informed and after that registering for renewable resource is not a beneficial service model.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the real estate development and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market forever. I quit my task. I think I kipped down 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. So everything is I do is targeted to families in those situations and concentrated on improving their quality of life
So what can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting individuals in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a chance to speak straight with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is spectacular. If there are national corporations that can support our work that can also be a big deal. Were presently dealing with a collaboration with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our projects. Normalizing exposure, standing beside us and saying “these neighborhoods are worthy of investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can potential partners work with you?
We are also always ready to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host people when a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to. Im constantly difficult leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts because I think that has real worth
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been great simply to meet the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and learning more about individuals with totally various perspectives. I like the networking.
I think we are doing the best we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, and that ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big distinction.
I believe there is always a shock when people discover who is behind our company. 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 constantly ready to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. 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.
Show us a recent success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, totally budget friendly and entirely sustainable development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 residential units, a coffee store, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
I believe there is constantly a shock when people learn who lags our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant believe it. To me, thats quite rewarding. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have an economic impact that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty effective message. That quantity of money effects the budget of everyday families
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
When I go to banks and state that were constructing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. I believe the lesson is that coalition building is essential.