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

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Photo thanks to Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is happy to share the third installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation features industry leaders and subjects related to accelerating an equitable and simply transition to a sustainable energy economy. In recognition of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member business are growing in the renewable resource 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 property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his expertise and track record of producing consistent returns with an individual passion for assisting 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 shift to a tidy economy.
FOUND OUT 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 pivotal moments that made me jump. In 1999, my mom got a $400 gas costs, and she was just making 10 dollars an hour, so we couldnt afford the gas bill. And so, unfortunately, we had our gas and heat shut off. For around a year in my teens, we needed to boil water and bring it up to a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were distinctively bumpy rides, and experiences like that simply stick to you. I dont care what takes place the rest of your profession or what your lifestyle is moving forward; those moments are with you forever. As I speak about that with various groups around the nation, it has ended up being clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A great deal of individuals have similar anecdotes, and thats not an advantage
The 2nd essential moment was probably 15 years earlier, as I was working for a company that was investing in a host of things around the world. People were being available in to request an investment around sustainable energy, and I positioned a question to them: “What you are making with these solar firms is spectacular, and the cost of solar is boiling down, but how does that aid daily individuals?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their access? They are paying a disproportionate amount of their earnings on energy.” They looked confused that I would even dare ask about the everyday individuals. They stated, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households frequently reside in multi-family structures, 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 expense of getting those people informed and after that signing up for sustainable energy is not a favorable business model.” I asked, “What if I owned the housing development and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to alter the marketplace forever. So I stopped my job. I believe I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I started my business. I called it 548 Capital because that is the unit number in the general public real estate where I grew up. So whatever is I do is targeted to households in those scenarios and focused on enhancing their lifestyle

Share with us a recent success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for an interview to announce that we will be developing a $30 million, entirely sustainable and entirely economical advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are constructing 50 domestic systems, a coffee shop, a service center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will broaden solar-powered use in the city
What effect are you making?
When individuals discover who is behind our company, I believe there is constantly a shock. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals simply cant believe it. To me, thats pretty satisfying. People seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is important is we have a financial impact that resonates with people, and its a quite powerful message. That amount of cash effects the spending plan of daily households
What challenges do you deal with? Why?
When I go to banks and say that were building sustainable housing 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 structure is crucial.

I believe there is always a shock when people discover who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, individuals just cant believe it. Putting individuals in rooms together so everyone can share notes is always important. We are also constantly willing to host individuals if they desire to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host individuals once a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access.

What can companies like ACORE do to move that needle for you, to break down that barrier?
Putting people in spaces together so everyone can share notes is always valuable. Normalizing exposure, standing next to us and stating “these communities are worthwhile of investment”– you cant put a value on that
How can potential partners work 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 neighborhoods. We host people when a week at our building so they can see the technology that were using in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access. Im constantly tough leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts because I believe that has real worth
How was your Accelerate subscription benefited you?
Its been excellent just to fulfill the other Accelerate member business. I found out a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and discovering individuals with completely different perspectives. I like the networking.
I believe we are doing the best we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, which ACORE is so deliberate about the program, makes a big difference.

Inform us about your business? (objective, partners, areas you run in, primary consumers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all neighborhoods, all households, everybody needs to have access. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everyone.