MiddleGround Capital, the first industrials-focused signatory with assets under $1 billion for the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, acquired SixAxis as part of its ESG investing strategy. Founded in 2002, SixAxis is a maker of highly engineered, compliance-driven industrials safety equipment based in Andrews, SC.

MiddleGround is an operationally focused private equity firm making control investments in North American middle-market B2B industrial and specialty distribution companies. It hasn’t historically invested in the worker safety solutions space, but its commitment to ESG made the SixAxis investment ideal. “We’ve been doing a lot of research around ESG trends, and we really liked the tailwinds behind the industrials worker safety space,” says Marty Sjoquist, director on MiddleGround’s investment team, tells Mergers & Acquisitions.

Sjoquist, who was the lead on this acquisition, adds “We think long term, as stakeholders across the industrials ecosystem place more emphasis on ESG values and metrics, companies like SixAxis that provide solutions critical to creating safe industrials workspaces will continue to grow and benefit from that.” MiddleGround considered the challenging economic environment in this acquisition, too. “We were focused on the resilient nature of this business, and because these are critical products, their customers are not going to cut back or skimp on them during a downturn,” explains Sjoquist.

SixAxis offers products under the SafeRack, ErectAStep and Upside Innovations brands. They include superior stairway and platform systems, fall protection and bulk loading services. The company ensures that all designed and manufactured safety and access services maintain compliance with relevant regulation agenices. The company supports over 1,900 active blue-chip customers throughout the industrials landscape, helping them establish and maintain worker safety conditions.

SixAxis makes a robust addition to MiddleGround Capital’s portfolio. “We think that the business has a meaningful opportunity to continue to grow market share,” says Sjoquist. The PE firm will invest in SixAxis’ sales team, drive efficiencies on its shop floor and in their manufacturing processes, optimize their supply chain and their working capital management.

MiddleGround sees an opportunity to help SixAxis accelerate its growth in this highly fragmented market populated by smaller local firms that aren’t worker safety experts. “We’ll be making strategic acquisitions opportunistically for SixAxis like we do for all our portfolio companies,” explains Sjoquist.

Dahna Chandler