Category : Company News
Of 95 Illinois companies certified as a Veteran-Owned Small Business, only one is in East Central Illinois.
The honor goes to Ray’s Termite and Pest Control, in the Vermilion County community of Bismarck.
Ray’s, owned by Jenny Lou Merrell, is also designated as a Female Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise.
Merrell served as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy from 1986 to 1990. During her Navy days, she was a pharmacy technician at Balboa Hospital, the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
Following her stint in the Navy, she attended college in Idaho and returned to the Danville area in 1999.
Shortly after her return, Merrell became the manager of Ray’s Termite & Pest Control. She acquired the company in April of 2010 and has expanded operations to serve Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Merrell said it took about two years to get various business certifications from the government. She received her federal Women’s Business Enterprise certificate first, then got various state and national veteran-owned business certifications.
“It’s a time-consuming process,” but well worth it, Merrell said. “That certification gets you in touch with people who can get contracts for you.”
One thing Merrell does is provide termite soil pre-treatment for major contractors before they begin construction at a site. Having the veteran-owned business certification puts her in touch not only with contractors, but also with government agencies that need pest control, she said.
Being a veteran-owned business should give her a better chance of landing a five-year contract with the Veterans Affairs medical center in Danville, she added.
Merrell said getting the designation is no small thing.
“The state verifies that you are a veteran-owned business and that you are actually involved in the operations of the business,” she said. “They’ll come out and watch you, look at your checking account and make sure you’re at the job site. They want to know it’s actually a vet out there doing the work and not just holding title to the business.”
Merrell said she is a member of the American Legion post in Oakwood and the Disabled American Veterans in Champaign.
“I’m really proud to be a veteran,” she said.
Merrell’s son, Timothy, is now the manager of the business. Today, Ray’s has six full-time employees, including Jenny Lou Merrell.
The newest addition to Ray’s is Liberty, a bedbug-detection dog.
She’s a beagle mix that was trained by Kansas-based IronHeart High Performance Working Dogs.
“I’ve taken her out a couple times,” Merrell said. “She’s amazing at detecting bedbugs where I couldn’t see them.”