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

Tell us about your company? (mission, partners, regions you run in, primary consumers, and so on).
The vision of 548 Capital is to make sustainable technologies available for all: all communities, all families, everybody should have gain access to. Somebody, some entity, has to serve as the bridge so that those technologies reach everybody.

By Constance ThompsonAugust 31, 2021
Picture courtesy of Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is pleased to share the third installment in our “Accelerating Renewables” blog site series.
Each installation includes market leaders and subjects associated with speeding up a fair and just shift to a renewable resource economy. In acknowledgment of National Black Business Month, our August features highlight how 3 Black-owned Accelerate member companies are prospering in the renewable resource 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 realty analysis. In May 2016, A.J. founded 548 Capital, LLC, to combine his proficiency and track record of creating consistent returns with an individual passion 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 impact 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 2 critical moments that made me leap. In 1999, my mom received a $400 gas costs, and she was only making 10 dollars an hour, so we could not manage the gas bill. And so, sadly, we had our gas and heat shut off. For approximately a year in my teens, we needed to boil water and bring it approximately a porcelain tub to take a bath. Those were uniquely bumpy rides, and experiences like that just stick to you. I dont care what happens the rest of your profession or what your quality of life is moving forward; those moments are with you forever. As I speak about that with different groups around the nation, it has actually become clear that my experience is not an anomaly. A great deal of people have comparable anecdotes, and thats not a great thing
The second essential minute was most likely 15 years earlier, as I was working for a firm that was purchasing a host of things all over the world. Individuals were can be found in to request a financial investment around sustainable energy, and I posed a concern to them: “What you are doing with these solar firms is magnificent, and the cost of solar is coming down, however how does that aid everyday people?” 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 puzzled that I would even dare ask about the daily people. They said, “Well, you understand, low- and moderate-income families typically reside in multi-family buildings, and it is tough to get in contact with those constructing owners. If you can not get in contact with the structure owners, you need to contact private households and the cost of getting those individuals educated and after that registering for renewable resource is not a favorable business design.” I asked, “What if I owned the real estate advancement and the solar?” And they said, whoever does that is going to alter the market permanently. So I stopped my job. I think I turned in my resignation within 6 months of that discussion, and I started my business. I named it 548 Capital because that is the unit number in the public housing where I matured. Everything is I do is targeted to families in those scenarios and focused on improving their quality of life

I believe there is constantly a shock when people learn who is behind our business. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant think it. Putting people in rooms together so everybody can share notes is constantly 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 people as soon as a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were using in communities that historically havent had gain access to.

Share with us a current success story.
We recently signed up with Mayor Lightfoot for a press conference to reveal that we will be constructing a $30 million, completely economical and entirely sustainable development, in collaboration with the City of Chicago. We are developing 50 property units, a coffee shop, an organization center, all on the South Side of Chicago, which will expand solar-powered usage in the city
What impact are you making?
I believe there is always a shock when people discover who lags our company. Even in our own communities, individuals simply cant believe it. To me, thats quite satisfying. Individuals seeing whos behind 548 Capital matters.
The other thing that I think is essential is we have an economic effect that resonates with individuals, and its a quite effective message. Were aiming to cut utility expenditures for families in half. Thats a big deal, you understand. That amount of cash effects the spending plan of daily families
What difficulties do you deal with? Why?
When I go to banks and state that were constructing sustainable housing in low- and moderate-income communities, they look at me like Ive spoken the wrong language. These communities are still being red-lined. I believe the lesson is that coalition structure is important.

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 important. Through the Accelerate program, weve had a chance to speak directly with bankers and tax credit syndicators which is incredible. Then, if there are nationwide corporations that can support our work that can also be a huge deal. Were currently working on a partnership with Lowes, which is contributing about $1,000,000 worth of materials to support our jobs. Normalizing direct exposure, standing next to us and stating “these communities deserve financial investment”– you cant put a worth on that
How can possible partners do company with you?
Right now, we are Chicago-focused. We are constantly trying to find partners to invest, use debt or buy some tax credits, thats the first ask. If they want to see some of the sustainable innovation we are putting in these neighborhoods, we are also always prepared to host individuals. This is not proprietary; its an open book. We host individuals once a week at our structure so they can see the technology that were applying in neighborhoods that historically have not had access. We are also going to be expanding our board. Since I believe that has real worth, Im constantly tough leading executives to put their name and face on these efforts
How was your Accelerate membership benefited you?
Its been excellent simply to meet the other Accelerate member business. I discovered a lot from having conversations with them in real-time, and discovering people with absolutely various point of views. I enjoy 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.