Ten Years of NCMM Research, Outreach, and Education 
It seems like yesterday that we opened the National Center for the Middle Market’s (NCMM) offices in The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business. In reality, it was 10 years ago when we walked into the inspirationally designed suite in Fisher Hall for the first time, and much has changed in the world of mid-sized companies since then. Armed with an ambitious agenda originally identified with our founding partners at GE Capital, our work was cut out for us. At the time, few had even heard the term ‘middle market,’ yet alone understood its importance. A decade later, recognition of the middle market as the bedrock of the U.S. economy has grown by leaps and bounds. However, the Center continues to play a significant role in sharing this important message today.

We launched the Center with a seminal piece of research entitled The Market that Moves America along with a Summit by the same name hosted at the University.  The content was based on an aggregation of various data sources including the US Census, Compustat, and Dun&Bradstreet, supplemented with over two thousand interviews with middle market C-suite executives. This report laid bare the Center’s definition of the middle market as well as its basic characteristics, opportunities, and challenges and clearly established the middle market at a critical source of revenues and jobs.  By landing on an annual revenue-based definition of $10 million to $1 billion, the guardrails were set to define what the future for NCMM would entail: research, outreach, and education.  

Significant progress has been made in all three areas.  However, as a business school, the research that began with The Market that Moves America continues to be the foundation of the Center. The Center published the first Middle Market Indicator (MMI) in April 2012  to track the performance and sentiment of the US middle market, and this report enters it 36th wave at the end of 2021!  

In addition, over 30 topically driven research projects have been completed to date with the middle market executive as the primary audience. Partners such as The Economist Intelligence Unit, Brookings Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, FedEx, and Vistage have been instrumental in bringing these projects to fruition. 

Finally, nearly $2 million in research grants have been awarded to faculty at business schools around the country to study various middle market issues ranging from financial tools to supply chain risk. Through this unprecedented pool of research, we have come to know middle market companies quite well.

Outreach and engagement has been a priority since the early days as well. The Center followed up its inaugural event with a series of Mid-Market summits that, at its peak in 2014, attracted 1,200 middle market leaders to Fisher’s campus for two days of presentations, networking, and content. Broadcast live (by MSNBC, no less!), the summit series turbo-charged Center awareness and helped put us on the map.  

Since then, NCMM has relied on partners around the country, bound together by a mutual interest in helping support middle market companies, to share and scale our work.  On average, our experts typically speak at over 50 events per year from coast to coast, with total audience sizes exceeding 7,500 or more.  Partners such as the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG); chambers of Commerce in Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia; and functionally focused groups such as AchieveNext have created on-going forums to serve their constituents, often collaborating with the Center on the latest content and thought-leadership.  

On a national level, the Center, in partnership with ACG, helped spur the creation of the Congressional Caucus for Middle Market Growth in the US House of Representatives. The caucus provided tremendous access to federal government leaders and staff to educate on the issues of mid-size companies. In October 2015, the Center helped organize the first Middle Market Whitehouse Fly-in with NCMM staff accompanying a dozen CEOs who spoke directly with policymakers in DC.  The launch of the first middle market podcast, appropriately called Market that Moves America, has given us yet another avenue to reach widespread audiences in new ways.

Education remains another goal in our agenda.  We share all of the knowledge and insights with the students at the Fisher College of Business, primarily through the Middle Market Industry Immersion course taught to our undergraduates.  This yearlong curriculum provides access to senior middle market leaders as guest speakers and focuses on group projects, providing a “win-win” for both the students and the middle market companies who host projects.

For many years, NCMM also sponsored the Fisher Invitational Case Competition, a gathering of first-year MBA students from programs across the Midwest for an intense, 48-hour live case experience with a mid-size company.  Finally, we have delivered executive education programs to middle market leadership teams via custom programs focused on the biggest challenges and greatest growth opportunities for the “Mighty Middle” market.

Our Next 10 Years 
While much has been accomplished, there is so much more yet to do.  We continue to be reminded how many people are still unfamiliar with the “forgotten middle” despite the fact that these businesses represent a third of private sector GDP and employment and are often the pillars of their local communities.  Our work continues today in collaboration with Chubb and Visa, and we hope to engage other organizations with a strategic interest and desire to support the growth of the middle market.  Here is to ten more years of ensuring that the Middle Market remains front and center for all stakeholders.