Who is UIL Holdings Corp.?

It's likely that many Philadelphians found themselves asking that very question last month, when they learned that UIL had been selected as the winning bidder to acquire the Philadelphia Gas Works from the city.

That's hardly surprising. UIL is midsize by energy-industry standards. We're not necessarily widely known outside of industry groups, investment circles, and our service territories.

But ask our 1,885 employees, or the 706,000 customers we serve in 66 Connecticut and Massachusetts communities where we do business, and they'll tell you they know our companies well. We've been part of their lives for a long time - since the 1890s.

So we take our responsibility to our communities seriously. Our corporation and our employees are highly engaged in the towns and cities we serve. We proudly provide corporate support for nonprofit, community, and cultural organizations across our region. Many of us volunteer with these groups - myself included.

As a corporation, we have committed to bringing a similar civic-mindedness to Philadelphia. UIL would have dual headquarters - in Philadelphia and New Haven. I personally expect to split my time between the two, as would other UIL executives.

We would keep PGW's service centers and call center open. This is consistent with our practice following acquisitions in 2010. We kept centers rather than consolidating them.

Philadelphia would be a new community for us, and we're humble enough to understand that we must listen and learn before we can fully become part of it. However, we have experience serving a diverse customer base, representing a wide array of economic levels and conditions.

Like PGW, our utilities offer programs to help low-income households pay their utility bills. When they are unable to do so, we do not foreclose on their properties. Rather, our excellent customer-care representatives work with them to enroll them in programs and direct them to additional sources of assistance.

We also realize the proposed acquisition has created anxiety among some PGW employees and their families. That's understandable. Employees of our three natural-gas distribution companies expressed similar anxiety in 2010, when we announced our $1.3 billion deal to acquire them from Iberdrola S.A.

Even though we are a local corporation, our assurances that we did not foresee layoffs as a result of the acquisition were understandably met with a degree of skepticism. But we meant what we said. We executed no layoffs as a result of the acquisition, and in fact our total workforce grew from 2010 to 2014.

At UIL, our employees are a source of pride. We offer market-based, competitive compensation to ensure we have the best and brightest working for us. Management and the bargaining units have worked hard to develop and maintain constructive relationships, resulting in fair contracts for all parties, and we're committed to building a good working relationship with PGW's union as well.

We believe in a long-term approach to business, and that approach explains the investments we make in our communities, our employees, and our infrastructure. In recent years, we've announced aggressive programs to invest in infrastructure at all of our operating companies.

In fact, PGW currently has plans to replace its 1,500 miles of cast-iron mains and services over the next 88 years. We'd like to cut that in half. As an investor-owned utility, UIL is well-positioned to access the capital markets to obtain the funds to make the needed investments, while recovering the costs over an extended time period to reduce the impact on customers.

We see this as a win for everyone: In the short term, this work would support job creation and speed up infrastructure replacement; over the long term, it would improve safety and reliability while reducing system costs.

Change always produces anxiety. But it also provides a path forward. We believe that this proposed acquisition is a promising path forward not only for our company, but also for the city of Philadelphia - and we're confident that City Council, the Public Utility Commission, and, ultimately, the residents of Philadelphia will agree once they've had the opportunity to examine our proposal in detail and see our actions.

We are looking forward to making a strong investment in Philadelphia and to growing with the city and its citizens not just today, but for many years in the future.

James P. Torgerson is president and chief executive officer of UIL Holdings Corp.