GREEN BAY - There was a major announcement Monday involving the largest power providers in Northeast Wisconsin.The parent company of WE Energies plans to buy the parent company of Wisconsin Public Service.Company leaders say customers won't notice big changes if the deal goes through. They say that's because the $9.1 billion deal is happening at the parent company level.WE Energies, which is owned by Wisconsin Energy Corporation, operates in much of the Fox Valley.WPS, owned by Integrys, covers the Northwoods, Green Bay, the Valley and the Lakeshore.If the parent companies combine, WPS spokesman Kerry Spees expects minimal changes for customers of both providers."Pretty much everything will stay the same," said Spees. "Wisconsin Public Service plans to operate the same way it always has, just have a new parent company."Both WPS and WE Energies would keep their individual names in the area.The new parent company would be called WEC Energy Group. It would serve more than 4.3 million gas and electric customers across Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.Spees says job cuts are not in current plans for a new, larger company."Down the road, will there be some staffing changes? There could be as they recognize best practices or whatever else," he said.Spees adds the deal wouldn't impact rates for customers of either company."The rate making process is going to be the same as it always was," he said. "This will have no effect on the way the rates are set or anything."Both companies say they'd maintain their involvement in community events.That's important to Susan Garot, the executive director of the Green Bay Botanical Garden. WPS is the naming sponsor of the garden's annual Garden of Lights."It is our largest fundraiser," said Garot. "Their sponsorship is a good piece of that."Garot says more than 50,000 people enjoy the event each year."It's a friends and family event that's tradition for many people in Northeast Wisconsin," she said.Molly Vandervest, the marketing and events manager for Downtown Green Bay, Inc., says WPS also supports many events that happen downtown throughout the year."Our holiday parade, our summer in the park concert, most recently all of our city deck events," said Vandervest.She is also confident that will continue."They have assured us in conversations with them today that that practice is not at all changing with their announcement," said Vandervest.The combined company would be headquartered in Milwaukee with operating headquarters in Chicago, Green Bay and Milwaukee.Here are more facts about the impact of the deal on investors.Integrys stockholders would receive a little more than a share of Wisconsin Energy stock. They would also get around $18 in cash for each share they own.Shareholders of Integrys would own approximately 28 percent of the combined company. The company's shares surged 12 percent today.Meanwhile, shares of Wisconsin Energy dropped around three percent.Both companies' boards have already approved the deal, but it still needs the approval of shareholders and several public service commissions. The companies hope the deal will close by next summer.
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