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 pleased to share the third installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation includes industry leaders and topics connected to accelerating an equitable and just transition to a renewable energy economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are flourishing 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 realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his knowledge and performance history of producing constant returns with a personal passion for assisting change neighborhoods and their impact 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.
CHECKED OUT MORE: Up-and-Comer Developer Makes Headway without the Banks ( Chicago Sun-Times, August 27, 2021).
What inspired you to start your company?
I had two pivotal moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas expense, and she was only making 10 dollars an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas expense. And so, unfortunately, we had our gas and heat turned off. For roughly a year in my teens, we needed to boil water and carry it up to a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were distinctively difficult times, and experiences like that simply stick to you. I do not care what occurs the rest of your profession or what your lifestyle is progressing; those moments are with you permanently. As I talk about that with various groups around the nation, it has become clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, and thats not an advantage
The second pivotal moment was most likely 15 years back, as I was working for a firm that was buying a host of things around the world. Individuals were can be found in to request an investment around renewable resource, and I positioned a concern to them: “What you are making with these solar firms is magnificent, and the expense of solar is boiling down, however how does that assistance everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their access? They are paying a disproportionate quantity of their earnings on energy.” They looked confused that I would even attempt ask about the daily individuals. They stated, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families frequently live 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 have to contact individual households and the expense of getting those people educated and after that subscribing to renewable resource is not a favorable organization design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing development and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market permanently. So I quit my job. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that conversation, and I began my business. I named it 548 Capital since that is the system number in the public real estate where I matured. Whatever is I do is targeted to households in those situations and focused on improving their quality of life

I believe there is constantly a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant think it. Putting people in spaces together so everybody can share notes is constantly important. We are likewise always prepared to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host individuals when a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had gain access to.

Share with us a recent success story.
We just recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be developing a $30 million, completely budget friendly and completely sustainable advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 residential systems, a cafe, a business center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What impact are you making?
I think there is always a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, people simply cant think it.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have an economic impact that resonates with people, and its a quite effective message. That quantity of money effects the budget plan of daily families
What obstacles do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a company, any company, was going to be hard. With that stated, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and state that were constructing sustainable housing 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 do not desire to invest; they do not wish to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a fight of generational size that Im attempting to eliminate here, and weve made very little, incremental development. I think the lesson is that union building is necessary. My voice just suggests so much, however the more I can bring pals to the table and amplify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement

Tell us about your business? (objective, partners, areas you operate 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. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody.

So what can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting individuals in rooms together so everyone can share notes is always valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a possibility to speak straight with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is magnificent. Then, if there are nationwide corporations that can support our work that can likewise be a huge deal. Were currently dealing with a collaboration with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our jobs. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and stating “these neighborhoods are worthy of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can possible partners work with you?
Now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly looking for partners to invest, use debt or buy some tax credits, thats the very first ask. We are likewise constantly ready to host people if they wish to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host individuals once a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in communities that traditionally have not had access. We are also going to be expanding our board. Because I think that has real value, Im constantly challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been terrific just to fulfill the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with totally different viewpoints. I love the networking.
I believe we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Just understanding that it exists, which ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge distinction.