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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the third installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation features market leaders and topics connected to accelerating a fair and just shift to an eco-friendly energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are prospering in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets specialist with more than a decade of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and real estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his knowledge and track record of creating consistent returns with an individual enthusiasm for helping transform neighborhoods and their influence on the world. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his influence on Americas shift 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 start your business?
I had 2 pivotal moments that made me jump. In 1999, my mother received a $400 gas costs, and she was only making 10 bucks an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas costs. A lot of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not an excellent thing
The 2nd essential minute was probably 15 years earlier, as I was working for a firm that was investing in a host of things around the globe. Individuals were can be found 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 magnificent, and the cost of solar is coming down, however how does that aid daily people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their access? They are paying an out of proportion amount of their income on energy.” They looked confused that I would even attempt ask about the everyday individuals. They said, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income households frequently live in multi-family buildings, and it is hard to get in contact with those developing 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 people educated and then subscribing to eco-friendly energy is not a beneficial service 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. So I stopped my task. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that conversation, and I started my business. Since that is the system number in the public housing where I grew up, I called it 548 Capital. Everything is I do is targeted to households in those circumstances and focused on enhancing their quality of life

Tell us about your company? (mission, partners, areas you run in, primary customers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all households, everyone should have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everybody.

I believe there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, people just cant believe it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly valuable. We are also always prepared to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. We host individuals once a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were applying in neighborhoods that historically havent had access.

What can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly valuable. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and stating “these neighborhoods are worthy of financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can prospective partners do service with you?
We are also constantly ready to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. We host people once a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were applying in communities that traditionally havent had gain access to. Im constantly 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 fantastic just to meet the other Accelerate member companies. I found out a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and finding out about people with completely different point of views. I enjoy the networking.
I think we are doing the very best 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.

Show us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be developing a $30 million, entirely budget-friendly and completely sustainable advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 property units, a coffee store, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
I believe there is constantly a shock when individuals discover who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, people simply cant believe it.
The other thing that I think is very important is we have an economic effect that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty powerful message. Were aiming to cut utility costs for families in half. Thats a huge offer, you understand. That amount of cash effects the budget plan of everyday families
What difficulties do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting an organization, any service, was going to be hard. With that said, 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 incorrect language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. Some banks dont wish to invest; they dont desire 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 very little, incremental development. I believe the lesson is that union structure is essential. My voice only means so much, however the more I can bring buddies to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need