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Jenkins named Orion Energy Systems’ new CEO

The Manitowoc energy company promotes its COO to assume the role after the retirement of Mike Altschaefl

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December 1, 2022

MANITOWOC – Though he grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Michael Jenkins – the new CEO of Orion Energy Systems (Nasdaq: OESX) – said he has spent much of his adult working career as a Wisconsinite.

“Even though I was raised in Illinois, my folks were from Wisconsin, and we’ve always been (Green Bay) Packers fans,” he said. “I lived in Wisconsin for 25ish years at this point, and one of the things I’ve always loved about Wisconsin compared to where I grew up in the Chicago suburbs is the family-friendly nature of the state and the culture.”

Jenkins graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1992 with a degree in political science, diplomacy and foreign affairs.

Though he said it’s his experience in the world of business that makes him a good fit for the CEO position.

“I’ve spent the last 30 years in business, growing businesses,” he said. “I’ve worked with a number of different industries, all of which were leaders in their space. And so, I’ve seen and learned a lot of best practices, thought processes and business models as a result of that.”

Jenkins said he has always been a “growth-oriented leader.”

“My last organization (before coming to Orion) Bostik, we were successful in taking an $80-million division and transforming that into about a $250-million division in about six years through organic growth as well as through acquisitions,” he said. “Having said that, and done that, I was beginning to look for additional opportunities and it so happened at that point in time that Orion, through a recruiter, reached out to me.”

Those conversations led to Jenkins joining the Orion team last year as chief operating officer (COO) as part of the company’s long-term strategic leadership and planning process.

“It was possible at some point to be in line to be considered for the CEO role, but it was definitely not a promise or anything like that,” he said.

In the role of COO, Jenkins said he was in charge of sales, operations and supply chain.

“Making sure the broader operations in the business were in good order to deliver on our demand moving forward,” he said.
Jenkins said he also played a key role in the company’s strategy and two acquisitions in 2022.

“Obviously, moving forward, it’s a different role, which includes all of that, (but is) ultimately accountable for all the business performance, and then the direct interface with the investment community,” he said.

Focused on the future
Orion Energy Services provides energy efficiency and clean tech solutions, including LED lighting and controls, maintenance services and electrical vehicle (EV) charging solutions throughout the country.

“We do business in all the states in the country,” he said.

Looking forward, Jenkins said Orion aims to set itself apart with its “customer-centric” approach.

“(We) focus on our customer needs, understanding those and building solutions for them,” he said.

Jenkins said that future also includes a continued push to raise the bar of its ability to execute its mission – helping customers reduce their energy consumption and increase their sustainability through carbon reductions.

“The way we’ve done that, historically, is by helping customers convert to more efficient lighting solutions,” he said. “Right now, we’ve been converting customers from fluorescent to LED lighting, which saves about 50% on energy. There’s definitely a nice financial payback for our customers. But equally, there’s a carbon reduction impact for our customers, which they’re concerned about.”

Orion Energy Systems is located at 2210 Woodland Dr. in Manitowoc. Submitted Photo

In order to continue to carry out that mission, Jenkins said Orion has added new platforms to its team.

“We acquired a maintenance business, so rather than just doing lighting retrofit projects, we could stay with key customers and do lighting maintenance and light electrical maintenance,” he said. “Something our customers were saying they wanted. So, we built a new platform for that.”

Jenkins said Orion has also started dabbling in the EV industry.

“About a month ago, we also acquired a business called Voltrek, which gets us into the EV charging space,” he said. “EVs will be a significant part of our near-term and medium-term future, not even long term – it’s coming quickly. And the commercial and industrial charging infrastructure is going to be at least 10 times what it is right now.”

Jenkins said Orion has acquired a company that does turnkey installations of charging equipment.

“We’re looking to leverage that as a platform and expand nationally through cross-selling with our existing partners and customers,” he said.

Jenkins said the Orion team feels “very optimistic” about its future.

“We see continued strength in our pipeline of new activity and new opportunities,” he said. “And we believe Orion is a growth business moving forward. We want to do it in a way where we’re team-based and collaborative. We want to bring out the best in all of our employees and do it in an environment in which they feel like they can excel and enjoy.”

Former CEO Mike Altschaefl will continue to serve on Orion’s board of directors following his retirement through the company’s 2023 annual meeting of shareholders, and thereafter, may provide consulting services to the Company until Dec. 31, 2023.

“I’d like to thank Mike Altschaefl for his dedication and leadership to Orion over the past five years,” Jenkins said. “He returned the business to financial strength, expanded our customer base and capabilities and successfully guided Orion through the COVID-19 pandemic with care and empathy. Altschaefl leaves Orion a much stronger business as a result of his five years of leadership.”

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