The original residents, Native Americans of the Iroquois Confederacy, called it Allatoona, the Cherokee word meaning, “the high lands of great worth.” In the mid-1800s, the Pennsylvania Railroad proved that point by building the famed Horseshoe Curve, the national historic landmark that breached the Allegheny Mountains and opened the gateway to the American west. Welcome to Altoona, Pa., and thousands of towns like it, where the excess and surplus line insurance market thrives.

Altoona is one of those small American towns served by Penn-America Insurance Co., located in Hatboro, another small Pennsylvania town. Penn-America insures businesses in many small towns through its network of wholesale general agents, specializing in excess and surplus line commercial property and casualty products. Policyholders pay an average annual premium of about $2,000. These insureds work with their hands, as artisan contractors, such as carpenters and plumbers, and they own the small retail shops, day care centers, restaurants, taverns, and service businesses that are the engine of the American economy.

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