Renewable Power Perspectives Q&A with Robert “A.J.” Patton, CEO of 548 Capital, LLC.
Show us a current success story.
We just recently joined Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to announce that we will be building a $30 million, entirely sustainable and entirely inexpensive advancement, in partnership with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 property systems, a coffee shop, a company 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 constantly a shock when people discover who is behind our company. Even in our own neighborhoods, people just cant think it. To me, thats pretty satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is important is we have a financial effect that resonates with individuals, and its a pretty effective message. That quantity of cash impacts the spending plan of daily households
What difficulties 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 structure is crucial.
I think there is constantly a shock when people learn who is behind our business. Even in our own neighborhoods, people simply cant believe it. Putting people in spaces together so everybody can share notes is constantly valuable. We are also always prepared to host individuals if they want to see some of the sustainable technology we are putting in these neighborhoods. We host individuals as soon as a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were applying in neighborhoods that traditionally havent had access.
By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Picture courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is delighted to share the third installation in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog series.
Each installation features industry leaders and subjects related to speeding up an equitable and just shift to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August functions highlight how three Black-owned Accelerate member business are growing 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 financial investment banking, endowment management, and property analysis. In May 2016, A.J. established 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his competence and performance history of developing constant returns with an individual enthusiasm for helping change neighborhoods and their impact on the world. In 2019, Patton was named a recipient of the Energy News 40 Under 40 award– highlighting his effect on Americas transition to a clean economy.
CHECKED OUT 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 turning points that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas expense, and she was just making 10 bucks an hour, so we couldnt pay for the gas bill. And so, regrettably, we had our gas and heat shut down. For roughly a year in my teens, we had to boil water and carry it up to a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely difficult times, and experiences like that just stick to you. I do not care what happens the rest of your career or what your lifestyle is moving forward; those moments are with you forever. As I speak about that with various groups around the country, it has become clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A lot of individuals have comparable anecdotes, whichs not an advantage
The 2nd turning point was probably 15 years ago, as I was working for a firm that was investing in a host of things all over the world. People were coming in to request for an investment around sustainable energy, and I postured a question to them: “What you are finishing with these solar firms is amazing, and the cost of solar is coming down, but how does that help everyday people?” I asked, “Where are they in your equation? Where is their gain access to? They are paying a disproportionate amount of their earnings on energy.” They looked puzzled that I would even dare inquire about the everyday people. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income households typically live in multi-family buildings, and it is tough to get in contact with those building owners. If you can not get in contact with the building owners, you need to call individual households and the cost of getting those people educated and after that registering for renewable resource is not a beneficial business design.” I asked, “What if I owned the real estate advancement and the solar?” And they stated, whoever does that is going to change the market forever. So I stopped my task. I believe I turned in my resignation within six months of that discussion, and I began my business. I named it 548 Capital because that is the unit number in the general public housing where I matured. So whatever is I do is targeted to households in those situations and concentrated on improving their quality of life
Inform us about your business? (mission, partners, regions you operate in, main customers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies accessible for all: all communities, all families, everybody ought to have access. Someone, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody.
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 valuable. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a chance to speak straight with lenders and tax credit syndicators which is amazing. If there are nationwide corporations that can support our work that can likewise be a big deal. Were currently dealing with a partnership with Lowes, which is donating about $1,000,000 worth of products to support our projects. Stabilizing exposure, standing beside us and stating “these neighborhoods are worthy of investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can potential partners work with you?
Right now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly trying to find partners to invest, provide financial obligation or buy some tax credits, thats the very first ask. We are likewise always ready to host individuals if they wish to see a few of the sustainable technology we are putting in these communities. This is not exclusive; its an open book. We host individuals when a week at our structure so they can see the innovation that were using in communities that traditionally havent had gain access to. We are likewise going to be broadening our board. Since I think that has genuine value, Im constantly tough leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been excellent just to fulfill the other Accelerate member companies. I found out a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and finding out about individuals with completely different point of views. I love the networking.
I think we are doing the finest we can do in the COVID environment. Feeling in ones bones that it exists, and that ACORE is so intentional about the program, makes a big distinction.