Spartanburg-based manufacturer Menzel plugs into solar

Hans-Joachim Menzel, owner of Spartaburg-based Menzel LP, stands beside his wife, Birgit Menzel, on the roof of the company's headquarters and manufacturing facility.

After almost 52 years in business, Spartanburg County’s first foreign manufacturer is reenergizing its operations in more ways than one.

Menzel LP has installed an 180-kilowatt (kW) solar system on the roof of its nearly 100,000-square-foot headquarters facility at 951 Simuel Road off Interstate 85 Business.

Hans-Joachim Menzel, the second-generation owner of the family-run company established by his father in 1965 in Spartanburg, said the investment signifies Menzel’s long-term commitment to the community and sustainable practices.

It doesn’t hurt that it will also have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

“I just paid my power bills for the next 30 years in one shot,” Menzel said. “It’s a significant investment that we think will pay off in the long run.”

Menzel said the company’s new solar panels produce as much energy as the plant consumes.

The solar system feeds into Duke Energy’s power grid and the company is credited for the energy produced. The company is also credited for any excess energy produced.

“Basically, we are producing our own power,” Menzel said. “I guess you could say we are almost totally green.”

Menzel’s new 180-kW solar system produces as much energy as the plant consumes, according to its owner. Photo courtesy of Thomas Koenig.

Menzel said the solar panels are one of many updates the company has made to the facility during the past few years.

The solar installation began with the addition of a new roof.

New windows and skylights have been installed, allowing natural light to pour into the building, which includes the company’s corporate offices and production space.

The offices have been remodeled to project a more modern European feel. A few of the changes include LED lighting, dark tile floors, white walls, contemporary furnishings, and enlarged color photographs.

Menzel said the company has also installed foam insulation to cut its energy waste.

The owner said he hopes more manufacturers in the Upstate will follow suit, particularly on the solar installation. He credited tax incentives for solar as being a major attractor for companies who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Without incentives you can’t do it. It’s just not feasible,” he said. “It’s a steep decision for a businessman to make. For us, it was the right decision.”

Menzel, who runs the company alongside his wife, Birgit, said the operation has about 50 employees.

Menzel, the company, produces custom machinery for a range of industries.

The 52-year-old company has invested a significant amount in updating its headquarters and decreasing its carbon footprint. Photo courtesy of Thomas Koenig.

The company can trace its roots back to Menzel’s grandfather, Karl Menzel, who founded the machinery business in 1925 and moved it to Bielefeld, Germany after World War II.

In 1965, his father, Gerhard Menzel visited a trade show in Atlantic City, N.J., where he ran into the late textile magnate Roger Milliken.

Milliken was impressed with Menzel’s equipment, including its iconic A-frame large roll winding and in-plant transportation system.

“Mr. Milliken bought all of my father’s equipment, but said he would have to come to Spartanburg to pick up the check,” Menzel said. “When he came to get it, he fell in love with the location and decided to set up his plant here.”

Menzel said his father’s decision to move to the Upstate paved the way for other European companies to relocate here.

He believes the influx of those companies paved the way for BMW Group’s decision in 1992 to build its first plant outside of Germany in Spartanburg County.

“A lot of people think these companies are foreign companies, but they’re not,” Menzel said. “These are American companies. They employ American workers. The people who come here from Germany and other countries choose to stay here. There are 6,000 Germans here now. It makes me proud to think that really all started with my dad.”

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