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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Image courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is happy to share the 3rd installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation features market leaders and topics related to speeding up a fair 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 thriving in the eco-friendly energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a financing, sales, and capital markets expert with more than a decade of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his competence and track record of developing constant returns with an individual passion for assisting transform communities and their effect on the world. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his influence on Americas transition to a clean economy.
FOUND OUT 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 2 critical moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas costs, and she was just making 10 dollars an hour, so we could not pay for the gas expense. A lot of people have comparable 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 six months of that conversation, and I began my company. I named it 548 Capital because that is the unit number in the public housing where I grew up.

Tell us about your business? (objective, partners, areas you run in, main customers, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations available for all: all communities, all families, everyone should have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to act as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody. Thats what my mission is, and fortunately we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be announcing some brand-new locations this fall

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 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 prospective partners do business with you?
We are likewise constantly willing to host individuals if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. We host people once a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that historically have not had gain access to. Im always tough leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I think that has real value
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been terrific just to fulfill the other Accelerate member companies. I found out a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering about people with totally various viewpoints. I love the networking.
I believe we are doing the finest we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, which ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a huge distinction.

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

Share with us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, entirely sustainable and completely cost effective advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are building 50 property units, a coffeehouse, a business center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden 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 simply cant believe it. To me, thats pretty satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have a financial effect that resonates with people, and its a quite powerful message. That amount of money impacts the budget of daily households
What challenges do you face? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a service, any organization, was going to be difficult. With that stated, access to capital is ungodly challenging. When I go to banks and say that were constructing sustainable real estate in low- and moderate-income communities, they 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 want to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to fight here, and weve made extremely little, incremental development. I think the lesson is that coalition building is essential. My voice just indicates 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