I think there is always a shock when people discover who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, people simply cant think it. Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly valuable. We are also constantly prepared to host individuals 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 innovation that were using in communities that historically have not had access.
By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image 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 site series.
Each installment features market leaders and subjects associated with speeding up an equitable and just transition to a sustainable energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member business are flourishing in the eco-friendly energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets professional with more than a years of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and genuine estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his proficiency and performance history of producing consistent returns with an individual enthusiasm for helping transform neighborhoods and their influence on the planet. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his impact on Americas shift to a clean economy.
READ 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 essential moments that made me jump. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas expense, and she was only making 10 bucks an hour, so we couldnt manage the gas expense. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, and thats not a great thing
They looked puzzled that I would even attempt ask about the everyday individuals. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I began my business. I named it 548 Capital because that is the system number in the public housing where I grew up.
So what can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always valuable. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities are deserving of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can potential partners do service with you?
Now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly trying to find partners to invest, use debt or buy some tax credits, thats the first ask. If they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities, we are also constantly prepared to host individuals. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host individuals as soon as a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally have not had access. We are likewise going to be broadening our board. Im constantly challenging leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has real value
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been great simply to satisfy the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and learning more about people with completely various perspectives. I like the networking.
I believe we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, and that ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge difference.
Show 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, totally budget-friendly and totally sustainable advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 domestic systems, a coffee bar, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What impact are you making?
When individuals discover who is behind our business, I think there is constantly a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant think it. To me, thats quite satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have an economic effect that resonates with people, and its a pretty effective message. That amount of cash effects the spending plan of daily families
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
When I go to banks and say that were developing sustainable real estate in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they look at me like Ive spoken the wrong language. These neighborhoods are still being red-lined. I think the lesson is that coalition structure is important.
Tell us about your business? (objective, partners, areas you operate in, primary consumers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all families, everybody needs to have gain access to. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone.