In just over a year, Edgewood Partners Insurance Center, better known as EPIC, has expanded its presence in the North Bay while also being named a healthiest company for its wellness efforts.

The San Mateo-based brokerage opened the Petaluma branch last July. With 265 employees across the company -- and about 20 in the North Bay -- the company boasts an 80 percent participation rate in its two-year old employee wellness program.

"If we were any healthier, we would be broccoli," said Mary Smith, director of human resources. 

[caption id="attachment_44791" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="Sporting 'I'm EPIC' T-shirts, the insurance brokerage employees participate in a Heart Association walk."][/caption]

In addition to increasing productivity, emphasizing employee health, Ms. Smith added, can actually work as a recruitment tool, an effective strategy in a competitive insurance market.

"We find that employees are more likely to perform better when they are feeling healthy, both mentally and physically, and are more likely to be attracted to, remain with and appreciate an employer who values them," Ms. Smith said. "Not only is it a good recruiting tool, it has reduced the rate of absenteeism and increased employee morale. We have also found that it has been an effective tool in slowing the growth of our health care costs."

The wellness concept has been embraced by employees, according to Ms. Smith.

"We have found that our employees are more engaged in managing their health issues, become more engaged with each other through our challenges and wellness events, and seem to be more present in their work performance," she said.

EPIC’s Petaluma branch was started by longtime North Bay insurance veterans Bill Merget and Mike Ryan, both formerly of ABD Insurance, which was acquired by Wells Fargo Insurance Services in 2007.

EPIC, the North Bay’s ninth largest independent property and casualty insurance agency, had just over $30 million in premium volume in its first year.  Its North Bay annual premium volume is generated roughly through property and casualty premium of $19 million, workers compensation premium of $9 million and surety production of $3 million. In addition, its employee benefits department generates nearly $6 million of premium.