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 happy to share the third installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation includes market leaders and topics connected to accelerating an equitable and just shift to an eco-friendly energy economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are prospering in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets professional with more than a decade of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and genuine estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his expertise and performance history of developing constant returns with a personal enthusiasm for helping transform neighborhoods and their influence on the world. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his influence 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 company?
I had two turning points that made me jump. In 1999, my mother received a $400 gas bill, and she was only making 10 bucks an hour, so we could not manage the gas expense. And so, regrettably, we had our gas and heat shut down. For around a year in my teens, we needed to boil water and bring it approximately a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely bumpy rides, and experiences like that simply stick with you. I dont care what occurs the rest of your career or what your lifestyle is progressing; those minutes are with you permanently. As I talk about that with different groups around the nation, it has actually become clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A great deal of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The 2nd turning point was most likely 15 years earlier, as I was working for a firm that was purchasing a host of things worldwide. People were can be found in to request for a financial investment around renewable resource, and I posed a question to them: “What you are finishing with these solar companies is amazing, and the cost of solar is boiling down, however how does that help daily people?” 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 inquire about the everyday individuals. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income families typically reside in multi-family structures, and it is difficult to get in contact with those building owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to call specific families and the expense of getting those people informed and after that subscribing to eco-friendly energy is not a beneficial service design.” I asked, “What if I owned the housing advancement and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to change the market permanently. I quit my job. I believe I kipped down my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I began my company. Since that is the unit number in the public housing where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. So whatever is I do is targeted to families in those circumstances and focused on improving their lifestyle

So what can organizations 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 always important. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and stating “these communities are worthy of financial investment”– you cant put a value 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 first ask. We are also always ready to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host people when a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were applying in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access. We are also going to be broadening our board. Im always difficult magnates to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has real worth
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been great simply to meet the other Accelerate member companies. I discovered a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and learning about people with absolutely different viewpoints. I enjoy the networking.
I believe 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 difference.

Show us a current success story.
We recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to reveal that we will be constructing a $30 million, completely affordable and totally sustainable development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 property units, a coffee store, a business center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What impact are you making?
When individuals discover who is behind our business, I believe there is constantly a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant believe it. To me, thats pretty satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is crucial is we have an economic effect that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty effective message. That quantity of cash effects the budget plan of everyday families
What obstacles do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a company, any company, was going to be challenging. With that said, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and say 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 communities are still being red-lined. Some banks do not desire to invest; they do not desire to partner; they dont desire to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im trying to battle here, and weve made extremely little, incremental progress. I believe the lesson is that union structure is very important. My voice only implies a lot, however the more I can bring good friends to the table and magnify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the requirement

I believe there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, people just cant believe it. Putting individuals in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly important. We are also constantly willing to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host people once a week at our building so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally have not had gain access to.

Inform us about your business? (mission, partners, regions you run in, main customers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations available for all: all neighborhoods, all households, everybody should have gain access to. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody.