People-Friendly Innovation is Key
Approaching 50 years, OPC Pest Services keeps focused on health and quality of life
Like high-tech empires and teenage rock bands, OPC Pest Services (OPC) began life in the family garage. In this case, it was a father-and-son startup in the Louisville suburb of Okolona. The business was originally called Okolona Pest Control, Inc.
As it approaches its 50th anniversary next year, OPC has grown into a 130-employee company providing services throughout Kentucky and parts of Ohio and Indiana.
Today, it’s the largest pest control operation in Kentucky and part of the largest in the country, says Donnie Blake, who founded the business with his father, Lamon, in 1972. Donnie’s daughter Kassandra Mills and her husband, Kevin Mills, oversee the company as Co-Presidents. Semi-retired, Donnie today holds the title of Vice President and is solely focused on the growth of OPC through acquisitions.
“Fifty years ago we started out with a commitment to giving customers the highest standard of pest control services,” Donnie says. “That has been our guiding principle ever since, and we’re proud to say that we’ve lived up to that promise.”
“The science of pest control has evolved tremendously, and we’ve consistently been on the leading edge of innovation and service,” he adds.
Spotting Pests, Focusing on People
As Kevin and Kassandra see it, pest control is about protecting public health, quality of life and property values as much as it is about termites, mosquitoes and other pests. And, sometimes, it’s about helping construction managers’ bottom lines.
“Keeping pests out of people’s lives means keeping out the viruses and other pathogens they can carry,” Kassandra says. “It protects their property and their property values. It lets them experience life more fully, whether sitting down indoors at the dinner table or just sitting out on their patios and enjoying the day.”
Kevin adds: “We’re about much more than just applying pesticides. Today, we have innovative approaches for dealing with termites, roaches and rats—from bait traps and glue boards to good, old-fashioned elbow grease. If traditional pesticides are needed, we target the area involved and keep them to a minimum.”
He adds, “We deal with the full range of residential and commercial clients, from single-family homes and apartment buildings to hospitals, restaurants and hotels, offices and warehouses. And, we help general contractors keep their construction projects protected, on schedule and on budget by working with them to apply termite controls throughout the building process.
“When termite damage has already occurred on existing structures, we even have experienced carpenters on board who can repair the damage in the course of treatments,” he says.
From Okolona to OPC
By 1972, Lamon Blake had been involved in pest control operations in Louisville for several years but had a desire to run his own company. He asked Donnie to put off college and join him in building it. They named it Okolona Pest Control after their hometown and began adding clientele, gradually growing into other parts of the Louisville area. Donnie’s brother Terry joined the business in 1975, and Kassandra in 1995. Lamon died in 2006, and Terry retired this year.
“My mother, Debbie, began working in the office in 1979,” Kassandra says, “and she took to referring to Okolona Pest Control as ‘OPC.’ It caught on, and we began calling ourselves ‘OPC Pest Services.’ ” One consideration, she says, was not being limited to Okolona. They wanted to expand beyond that.
Expand they did, serving Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Covington, Florence, Bardstown and Shelbyville in Kentucky, and Indianapolis in Indiana. They also service Cincinnati, Ohio, as Ace Exterminating, part of the OPC family of brands. The great majority of their staff work in the field as licensed pest control service technicians.
In 2018, OPC was acquired by Atlanta-based Rollins, Inc., an international pest control corporation, making OPC part of the largest pest control operation in the United States.
“It’s a good arrangement for everyone,” Kassandra says. “Rollins has been a great organization to work with. They give us autonomy to run OPC, and they’re supportive with access to new techniques and resources. It’s been a win-win for Rollins, for OPC and for our customers.”
Termites, Bedbugs, Bourbon and Beetles
OPC’s customer base is split about evenly between residential and commercial properties. Some 20 percent focuses on termites, both with existing structures and new construction.
With a large variety of Environmental Protection Agency-approved products available to the industry, Kevin notes, OPC has an extensive arsenal of treatment methods to call on. “Instead of broadcast spraying for mosquitoes,” he suggests, “we know that before mosquitoes bite they rest up for a bit, and we can target the spots where they rest, like heavy shrub foliage or the weeds under a deck.”
Bedbugs can be treated chemically or through heat remediation. “Our process occurs by strategically placing electric heaters throughout the space to increase the temperature above 120 degrees and drive the bedbugs out of their hiding places. Once they’re in the open, the heat dries them out and kills them—with virtually no pesticides involved.”
“Kentucky and surrounding states experience considerable pressure from subterranean termites,” Kevin notes. “Our lead offering for termites is the Sentricon Termite Colony Elimination System. It’s an environmentally friendly approach that involves positioning bait stations around the perimeter of a structure. It kills them by preventing them from molting, and it’s designed to attract worker termites that will carry it back to the colony. It results in complete destruction of the colony’s population, including the queen.”
An alternative is liquid treatment with Termidor, which attacks a termite’s central nervous system. In new construction projects, Termidor is applied to the soil beneath a construction site before the first slab is poured, as well as in trenches around the structure’s perimeter. If termite damage is already present in an existing building, it’s applied around the foundation.
“A third option during the construction process,” Kevin notes, “is the application of borates like Bora-Care to the wood framing in a building. It contains a borate salt that penetrates deep into the wood, is long-lasting and is environmentally friendly.”
A singular customer segment for OPC is made up of Kentucky’s iconic bourbon distillers, which construct barn-like warehouses called “rickhouses” to store thousands of barrels of their renowned products while they age.
“The nostalgia of bourbon distilling typically calls for using rickhouses built with rough-cut lumber,” Kevin notes. “But these structures of untreated lumber face a serious threat from wood-boring powderpost beetles. We work with distillery builders to prevent this problem before it gets started. Before they roll their barrels into a new building, we go in and treat the structure with the borate Bora-Care throughout.”
“Keeping pests out of people’s lives means keeping out the viruses and other pathogens they can carry. It protects their property and their property values. It lets them experience life more fullay…” Kassandra Mills, Co-President, OPC Pest Services
Providing standard pest control services has led OPC to several unexpected sidelines—carpentry, attic insulation, general handyman projects and exclusion work. Carpentry entered the picture because repairs to termite-damaged wood are an essential part of treating for the wood-devouring insects.
“We offer a termite damage warranty,” Kassandra says, “and we want to be certain that structures we work on are in good shape once we’ve treated them.” For this, the company depends on its team of licensed pest control service technicians who are also expert carpenters. With this value-added expertise, making available handyman services, like window repair and trim work, was an easy step.
OPC expanded into attic insulation largely because TAP Pest Control Insulation is made from recycled paper and is treated with a borate product to protect from common household pests that might infest attic and wall spaces. The manufacturer says it also reduces energy costs by up to 30%.
Inspection, Identification, Cleaning
Any project with a commercial customer begins with a consultation to determine their specific needs. Sensitive accounts such as health care and schools require extra care. “For these clients, we utilize glue boards and baits,” Kassandra says, “but a lot of this work is really about inspection, problem identification and recommendations. Recommendations may include exclusion, keeping pests out by checking screens, caulking around windows and closing up holes and cracks, even down to the sweeps under doors.
“Sometimes clients don’t realize that areas like drains and greasy stovetops entice pests. Insects like houseflies and fruit flies are attracted to water and organic matter. A lot can be accomplished by keeping food containers closed, rigorously cleaning countertops and other surfaces at the end of the day, wiping up spills quickly and keeping areas dry,” she says.
OPC recommends that most commercial service be done monthly at a minimum, but some OPC clients need service every week or two. Some hospitals and assisted living facilities get daily service, some several times a week.
Innovation, Innovation, Innovation
“The industry has become quite creative in recent years with its emphasis on new, people-friendly treatments and education,” Donnie says. He’s proud that OPC has played an important role in the process.
“We’ve been able to stay on the cutting edge of innovation through strong relationships with the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), the Rollins organization and the University of Kentucky,” he says.
In the early 2000s, he served as NPMA President and an Executive Board member. Kassandra has also been active in NPMA and its Professional Women in Pest Management (PWIPM) program, participating in various group task forces. During that time, NPMA created the QualityPro designation that set standards for pest control businesses and their employees. The lengthy list of standards range from liability insurance coverage to employee background checks and technician training. OPC was the first pest control company in the country to achieve the designation of a QualityPro company.
For a number of years, OPC has worked closely with University of Kentucky entomologist Michael Potter, Ph.D., who played a significant role in developing pest management techniques like termite bait traps, perimeter termite treatments and bedbug treatment techniques. During the West Nile virus outbreak in 2003, NPMA worked with the university to create a national series of public conferences on backyard mosquito control.
“Pests can be a lot of things, from merely annoying to disease carriers to destructive,” Donnie says. “We see our job as not just as pest control specialists but as protectors of public health, property and quality of life. We’re good at it, and we’re proud to do it.”