Renewable Power Perspectives Q&A with Robert “A.J.” Patton, CEO of 548 Capital, LLC.
Share with us a recent success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be constructing a $30 million, completely sustainable and completely cost effective development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 property units, a coffee shop, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
I think there is always a shock when people learn who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant believe it.
The other thing that I believe is essential is we have a financial impact that resonates with people, and its a quite effective message. That amount of money impacts the budget plan of everyday families
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
You cant avoid the grind. Let me acknowledge that beginning a service, any organization, was going to be hard. With that stated, access to capital is ungodly difficult. When I go to banks and say that were developing 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 wish to invest; they do not desire to partner; they dont wish to do their share. It is a fight of generational size that Im trying to eliminate here, and weve made really small, incremental development. I think the lesson is that coalition building is very important. My voice just suggests so much, however the more I can bring good friends to the table and amplify that voice, the more we can raise attention to the need
Inform us about your company? (objective, partners, areas you run in, main consumers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all households, everyone must have gain access to. Someone, some entity, has to work as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody. Thats what my mission is, and luckily we are growing. We are presently headquartered in Chicago, but we will be announcing some brand-new places this fall
What can organizations 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 exposure, standing next to us and saying “these communities are deserving of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can prospective partners do company with you?
Right now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly looking for partners to invest, use debt or buy some tax credits, thats the first ask. We are likewise constantly happy to host people if they wish to see a few of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host people once a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that traditionally have not had access. We are likewise going to be broadening our board. Im constantly difficult top executives to put their name and face on these efforts due to the fact that I believe that has genuine value
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been excellent just to satisfy the other Accelerate member companies. I discovered a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and learning more about people with absolutely different viewpoints. I enjoy the networking.
I think 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 big distinction.
I think there is always a shock when individuals discover who is behind our company. Even in our own communities, people just cant believe it. Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is always valuable. We are likewise constantly willing to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host individuals when a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in neighborhoods 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 happy to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation includes industry leaders and topics connected to speeding up a fair and simply 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 flourishing in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, 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. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his proficiency and track record of producing constant returns with a personal passion for helping change neighborhoods and their effect on the planet. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect 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 two turning points that made me jump. In 1999, my mother got a $400 gas bill, and she was only making 10 dollars an hour, so we couldnt pay for the gas costs. And so, regrettably, we had our gas and heat turned off. For around a year in my teenagers, we had to boil water and bring it up to a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely tough times, and experiences like that simply stick with you. I dont care what happens the rest of your career or what your quality of life is progressing; those moments are with you permanently. As I speak about that with different groups around the nation, it has actually become clear that my experience is not an abnormality. A lot of people have similar anecdotes, and thats not an advantage
They looked puzzled that I would even attempt ask about the daily individuals. I believe I turned in my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I started my company. I named it 548 Capital because that is the system number in the public real estate where I grew up.