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 pleased to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installment includes market leaders and topics related to speeding up a fair and just transition to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are thriving in the sustainable energy sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets specialist with more than a decade of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to integrate his proficiency and track record of producing consistent returns with a personal passion for helping transform 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 shift 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 begin your business?
I had 2 essential moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas bill, and she was just making 10 bucks an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas expense. A lot of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not an excellent thing
The second turning point was probably 15 years earlier, as I was working for a company that was investing in a host of things worldwide. People were being available in to ask for a financial investment around renewable resource, and I presented a question to them: “What you are doing with these solar firms is amazing, and the expense of solar is coming down, but how does that aid everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their gain access to? They are paying an out of proportion quantity of their income on energy.” They looked confused that I would even attempt ask about the daily people. They stated, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income families frequently 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 get in touch with specific households and the cost of getting those people educated and then registering for renewable energy is not a beneficial business design.” So, I asked, “What if I owned the housing advancement and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to alter the market forever. I quit my job. I think I kipped down my resignation within six months of that conversation, and I started my business. Because that is the unit number in the public housing where I grew up, I named it 548 Capital. Whatever is I do is targeted to families in those scenarios and focused on improving their quality of life

Show us a recent success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be building a $30 million, completely sustainable and entirely budget-friendly advancement, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 property units, a coffeehouse, a company center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
I think there is constantly a shock when people discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant think it.
The other thing that I think is important is we have a financial impact that resonates with individuals, and its a quite effective message. That quantity of cash effects the budget plan of daily families
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
You cant skip the grind. Let me acknowledge that starting a business, any business, was going to be hard. With that said, access to capital is ungodly difficult. When I go to banks and say that were building 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. Some banks dont wish to invest; they do not wish to partner; they do not want to do their share. It is a battle of generational size that Im attempting to eliminate here, and weve made very small, incremental development. I think the lesson is that coalition structure is necessary. My voice just implies so much, however the more I can bring pals to the table and enhance that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need

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

What can organizations like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting individuals in rooms together so everybody can share notes is always important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had an opportunity to speak directly with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is magnificent. If there are nationwide corporations that can support our work that can also be a huge offer. Were currently working on a partnership with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our jobs. Normalizing exposure, standing beside us and saying “these neighborhoods 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 searching for partners to invest, use financial obligation or purchase some tax credits, thats the very first ask. If they desire to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities, we are likewise constantly ready to host individuals. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host individuals as soon as a week at our building so they can see the innovation that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access. We are also going to be expanding our board. Im always tough top executives to put their name and face on these efforts because I believe that has genuine worth
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 conversations with them in real-time, and finding out about people with completely various perspectives. I enjoy the networking.
I think we are doing the finest we can do in the COVID environment. Just understanding that it exists, and that ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a huge difference.

Tell us about your business? (mission, partners, areas you operate in, primary consumers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all neighborhoods, all families, everybody must have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, needs to work as the bridge so that those innovations reach everybody. Thats what my objective is, and luckily we are growing. We are currently headquartered in Chicago, however we will be revealing some brand-new locations this fall