Renewable Power Perspectives Q&A with Robert “A.J.” Patton, CEO of 548 Capital, LLC.
Tell us about your business? (mission, partners, regions you run in, primary customers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all households, everyone needs to have access. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone.
So what can organizations like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in rooms together so everyone can share notes is always valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had an opportunity to speak directly with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is spectacular. If there are national corporations that can support our work that can also be a huge offer. Were currently dealing with a partnership with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our projects. Normalizing direct exposure, standing beside us and saying “these communities deserve investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can potential partners work with you?
Now, we are Chicago-focused. We are always searching for partners to invest, provide financial obligation or purchase some tax credits, thats the first ask. If they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods, we are likewise always prepared to host individuals. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host people as soon as a week at our building so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that traditionally have not had gain access to. We are also going to be expanding our board. Because I believe that has real value, Im constantly difficult leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been excellent simply to satisfy the other Accelerate member business. I discovered a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and learning more about individuals with completely various perspectives. I enjoy the networking.
I believe we are doing the finest we can do in the COVID environment. Just understanding that it exists, and that ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge difference.
Show us a recent success story.
We recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, totally sustainable and completely economical advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 property units, a cafe, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
I believe there is always a shock when individuals learn who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant believe it.
The other thing that I think is very important is we have a financial impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite powerful message. Were intending to cut utility expenses for families in half. Thats a huge deal, you understand. That amount of money effects the budget of everyday families
What challenges do you face? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a company, any business, was going to be challenging. With that said, access to capital is ungodly hard. When I go to banks and say 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 dont desire to invest; they do not wish to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im trying to combat here, and weve made extremely small, incremental progress. I believe the lesson is that union structure is necessary. 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 need
I believe there is constantly a shock when people discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant believe it. Putting individuals in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always valuable. We are also constantly ready to host individuals if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host people once a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access.
By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Photo thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the 3rd installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation includes industry leaders and topics related to speeding up a fair and simply transition to a renewable energy economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member companies are flourishing in the renewable energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets expert with more than a decade of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his know-how and track record of creating constant returns with a personal enthusiasm for assisting change neighborhoods and their impact on the planet. 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.
READ 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 critical minutes that made me jump. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas bill, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we could not afford the gas costs. Therefore, unfortunately, we had our gas and heat shut off. For around a year in my teenagers, we needed to boil water and carry it as much as a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely difficult times, and experiences like that simply stick to you. I dont care what takes place the rest of your profession or what your quality of life is progressing; those minutes are with you permanently. As I talk about that with different groups around the nation, it has ended up being clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A great deal of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a great thing
The 2nd critical minute was most likely 15 years back, as I was working for a company that was purchasing a host of things around the world. Individuals were can be found in to request for a financial investment around renewable resource, and I postured a question to them: “What you are finishing with these solar companies is amazing, and the expense of solar is coming down, but how does that assistance everyday individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their access? They are paying an out of proportion quantity of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the daily individuals. They said, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families typically live in multi-family buildings, and it is difficult to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to contact individual families and the expense of getting those individuals informed and after that registering for eco-friendly energy is not a favorable service model.” 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 stopped my task. I believe I kipped down my resignation within six months of that conversation, and I started my business. Since that is the system number in the public real estate where I grew up, I called it 548 Capital. Whatever is I do is targeted to households in those situations and focused on improving their quality of life