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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Photo courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the 3rd installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installment features industry leaders and topics connected to speeding up an equitable and simply transition to a sustainable energy economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are growing in the renewable resource sector.
Robert “A.J.” Patton is a finance, sales, and capital markets specialist with more than a years of experience in financial investment banking, endowment management, and realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his proficiency and track record of developing constant returns with an individual passion for helping change communities and their influence on the planet. In 2019, Patton was called a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect on Americas shift to a clean economy.
LEARNT 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 expense, and she was just making 10 dollars an hour, so we could not pay for the gas costs. A lot of individuals have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a good thing
The 2nd critical moment was most likely 15 years back, as I was working for a company that was purchasing a host of things worldwide. Individuals were can be found in to ask for a financial investment around sustainable energy, and I posed a concern to them: “What you are making with these solar firms is magnificent, and the expense of solar is boiling down, but how does that aid everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your formula? Where is their gain access to? They are paying a disproportionate quantity of their earnings on energy.” They looked confused that I would even dare inquire about the everyday people. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households typically 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 building owners, you need to get in touch with private families and the expense of getting those people educated and after that subscribing to renewable resource is not a beneficial organization design.” I asked, “What if I owned the real estate development and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to alter the market permanently. I quit my task. I believe I kipped down my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I began my business. I named it 548 Capital since that is the unit number in the public real estate where I grew up. Everything is I do is targeted to households in those scenarios and focused on improving their quality of life

Tell us about your company? (objective, partners, areas you run in, main clients, etc.).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable innovations available for all: all communities, all households, everyone needs to have gain access to. Someone, some entity, needs to function 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 announcing some new places this fall

So what can companies 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 valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had an opportunity to speak directly with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is magnificent. Then, if there are national corporations that can support our work that can also be a huge offer. Were presently working on a partnership with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our tasks. Normalizing exposure, standing beside us and saying “these neighborhoods are worthy of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can potential partners work with you?
We are likewise always willing to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these communities. We host people once a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in communities that traditionally havent had gain access to. Im constantly difficult leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts since I think that has real worth
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been terrific just to satisfy the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and learning more about individuals with absolutely different point of views. I love the networking.
I think we are doing the very best we can do in the COVID environment. Simply understanding that it exists, which ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big distinction.

I believe there is constantly a shock when people discover who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant believe it. Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is constantly valuable. We are likewise constantly willing to host people if they desire to see some of the sustainable technology 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 applying in communities that traditionally havent had gain access to.

Share with us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be building a $30 million, entirely sustainable and entirely inexpensive development, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 residential units, a cafe, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What effect are you making?
I think there is always a shock when individuals discover who lags our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant believe it. To me, thats quite satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is very important is we have a financial effect that resonates with people, and its a pretty effective message. Were aiming to cut energy expenses for families in half. Thats a huge offer, you understand. That quantity of cash effects the budget plan of daily households
What obstacles do you face? Why?
When I go to banks and state that were constructing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, they look at me like Ive spoken the incorrect language. These communities are still being red-lined. I think the lesson is that union structure is crucial.