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 installment includes industry leaders and topics related to accelerating an equitable and just shift to an eco-friendly 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 decade of experience in investment banking, endowment management, and real estate analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his expertise and performance history of producing constant returns with an individual enthusiasm for helping change neighborhoods and their effect on the world. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect 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 2 essential minutes that made me jump. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas bill, and she was just making ten dollars an hour, so we could not manage the gas bill. A lot of individuals have similar anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The second pivotal moment was probably 15 years earlier, as I was working for a firm that was buying a host of things around the globe. People were can be found in to request for a financial investment around renewable energy, and I presented a question to them: “What you are finishing with these solar firms is amazing, and the expense of solar is boiling down, however how does that aid daily individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their gain access to? They are paying a disproportionate amount of their income on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even attempt inquire about the daily individuals. They stated, “Well, you know, low- and moderate-income families often reside in multi-family buildings, and it is hard to get in contact with those building owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you have to contact private families and the cost of getting those people informed and after that signing up for renewable resource is not a beneficial company design.” I asked, “What if I owned the housing development and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to alter the marketplace permanently. So I quit my task. I think I kipped down my resignation within 6 months of that conversation, and I began my business. Since that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. Everything is I do is targeted to households in those situations and focused on enhancing their quality of life

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 important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a possibility to speak directly with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is spectacular. 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 contributing about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our tasks. Stabilizing direct exposure, standing next to us and stating “these neighborhoods deserve financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can possible partners work with you?
We are likewise always ready to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host people when a week at our building so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that traditionally havent had access. Im constantly difficult top executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I believe that has genuine value
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been excellent simply to fulfill the other Accelerate member companies. I found out a lot from having discussions with them in real-time, and discovering people with absolutely different point of views. I like the networking.
I think we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Just understanding that it exists, which ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big distinction.

Tell us about your business? (objective, partners, regions you run in, primary clients, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all families, everybody ought to have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, needs to work as the bridge so that those innovations reach everyone. Thats what my mission is, and thankfully we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be announcing some new locations this fall

I believe there is always a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant believe it. Putting people in rooms together so everybody can share notes is constantly important. We are also constantly prepared to host people if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. We host people when a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were applying in communities that traditionally havent had gain access to.

Show us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be developing a $30 million, completely affordable and completely sustainable development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 property systems, a coffeehouse, a business center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What impact are you making?
I think there is always a shock when people discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant believe it.
The other thing that I think is crucial is we have an economic impact that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty effective message. That quantity of cash impacts the budget plan of everyday households
What obstacles do you face? Why?
When I go to banks and state 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. I think the lesson is that coalition building is important.