PITTSFIELD — The dry summer has helped to keep mosquito problems to a minimum this year, but a Virginia-based company still sees Pittsfield as ripe for a mosquito-control franchise.
Mosquito Joe, which specializes in mosquito-control methods, is looking to expand into areas where it believes its services would be valuable.
"The Pittsfield-New England area is that area," said COO Brian Garrison, a native of Medford who has cousins in the Berkshires. "Massachusetts has a strong and intense mosquito season. I think our services would be well received by the public. We target individual properties."
Founded in 2012, Mosquito Joe currently has 170 franchises in 26 states, according to Garrison.
And despite regional concerns about mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile Virus, Mosquito Joe has only one franchise in New England — an operation in New Hampshire that is planning to open next year.
Garrison said Berkshire County's dynamics fit into his company's long range growth plans.
"This is an industry that has really taken off in the last five to 10 years," said Garrison.
The Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project, which is based in Pittsfield, traps and tests batches of mosquitos at 250 county locations, including 150 in Pittsfield. But Superintendent Christopher Horton said his agency is more concerned with preventing the underlying problems related to the breeding of mosquitos than it is with controlling the insects on individual properties.
"We do things on a larger scale," Horton said. "We're treating wetlands and breeding sites for a whole town. For individual service requests we take a few of those but we don't have the capacity to take them all."
There could be room in the county for a company that offers individualized services, he said.
"I guess there would be a niche there," Horton said. "There are some (pest control) companies (in the Berkshires) that actually do it already."
According to Garrison, those who agree to operate a franchise for Mosquito Joe are given a company vehicle that contains all the materials needed for mosquito prevention.
"We tend not to have a brick-and-mortar location," he said. "It's attractive to new business owners because it's not a big investment."
However, if a an operator is successful, "you can grown into an office location over time," Garrison said. "Most of our offices are in warehouse locations."
First-year franchise owners typically employ between five and seven people, according to Garrison, including two technicians, often a husband and wife team.
"As the base grows you can hire more technicians and bring someone else in," Garrison said. "We're trying to make it a low investment up front but with the ability to scale quickly and grow it into a local business."
Mosquito Joe treats individual properties by providing each areas with what is known as a "barrier spray application," Garrison said.
"We will come out and assesses your property for wherever mosquitos congregate ... during the day," he said.
The company than applies a low dosage pesticide that is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency on those areas.
Joe Condon, a technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association, told radio station WTOP-FM (103.5) in suburban Washington D.C. that consumers should do their homework before deciding to hire mosquito prevention companies, and that they should know the exact types of pesticides that are being sprayed into their yards.
He said companies that use products that are not registered with the EPA don't necessarily mean they pose a health risk. But he said if they use those types of products it means the solution they offer hasn't been proven effective by the EPA.
Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.