Jerry L. May and G. Thomas Close have learned from decades of personal and professional experience that by partnering you can take two things that are being done right, combine them and make them into something even better. The two lifelong friends merged their respective insurance agencies on Canton Street in Troy - literally opening a wall that separated them - some 18 years ago. Now, as they embark on a brand new year, they do so with an even wider range of products and services to residents of their hometown and surrounding communities.

Their agency, MC Insurance Associates, has teamed with a partner who they believe will continue the steady progression of making something good even better.

That partner is Gannon Associates, itself a tremendous local success story in its second generation as a family business.

"MC is the agency in Troy," says Mark Gannon, Chief Operating Officer of Gannon Associates headquartered in Towanda. "People will usually identify with the insurance company that provides their coverage, but we found, over the years, that when we'd ask MC's clients, 'Who's your company?' they'd say, "It's MC Insurance in Close and May, both Troy High School graduates in the mid-1960s and Vietnam veterans, engaged in an amicable rivalry for more than a decade out of adjoining Canton Street offices, providing their policyholders with a wide range of coverage and outstanding service. There were even times when they worked together, sharing some accounts, and referring business to the each other when that option was in the best interest of the client. They had both returned to their hometown to live and work, following divergent paths. At the same time, they were gaining the knowledge and experience that would allow them to provide the most effective and cost-efficient coverage, whether it was property, casualty or life.

For Tom Close, his journey as an independent agent in his hometown started in 1978 when he began working for Robert Kendall, owner of the Pierce Insurance Agency founded by Henry Pierce in 1940 and purchased by Kendall in 1963. Close took advantage of the opportunity to buy the agency in 1983.

"I grew up in this area and I learned that people around here like to do business face to face, look you in the eye," says Close. "Service is very important to us and that won't change with our partnership with Gannon Associates."

The following year, on New Year's Day 1984, Jerry May proved you can go home again, but only after learning the fine points of the business for 13 years in Center City Philadelphia, initially with the Insurance Company of North America (INA) which, due to a merger with Connecticut General, subsequently became CIGNA. The Troy native did something he had been considering for years when he purchased the C.F. May Insurance Agency, started by his grandfather, C.F. May, out of his home in 1939. His father, C.F. May, Jr., who had survived 25 missions as a bomber pilot in World War II and attended Cornell University after the war, sold the agency which had been renamed C.F. May & Son in 1948. As the owner of the C.F. May Insurance Agency, Jerry May got to work with his father and reacquaint himself intimately with his hometown and the people who would become his neighbors, clients, and friends.

"We worked together actively for two years," Jerry May recalls of those first years living and working with his father back home, "and then Dad slowed down and assisted for another year before retiring."

The Pierce Insurance Agency under Tom Close and the C.F. May Insurance Agency with Jerry May at the helm would each thrive and expand as friendly rivals. In fact, Close's former boss, Kendall, would become May's father-in-law. Their offices were literally beside each other in adjoining buildings, with only a wall separating their businesses. When they merged in 1995 to become MC Insurance Associates, as May puts it, "we simply cut a hole in the wall and made that a door between the two MC Insurance has gained distinction throughout the region for its competitive pricing through an impressive array of companies. That includes not only its personal insurance lines and commercial options attuned to small- and medium-sized businesses, but farm insurance, financial services and bonds.

The partnership with Gannon Associates expands that arsenal of coverage options, but the affiliation will allow MC to go to the head of the class in providing health insurance during revolutionary times on the health-care front. The Gannon Life and Health Team will be at MC's disposal, including Medicare services through one of the top-ranked carriers in the nation.

"We can bring a higher level of technology to the relationship, but we won't do it at the expense of losing that personal touch people expect from MC " says Gannon of the partnership.